Israel Horovitz’s latest play is a witty comedy

15Aug17

By MARK SARDELLA

It should come as no surprise that as playwright Israel Horovitz has grown older, the 1956 Wakefield High School graduate’s plays have explored themes of aging. The title of last year’s “Man in Snow” referred in one sense to the whitening hair that comes with age.

In “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” Horovitz’s current offering at Gloucester Stage, he returns to his beloved Paris where four women have arrived for the funeral of the 100-year-old man who loved all of them – at times separately and at times simultaneously – along with a host of other conquests along the way.

These “babes” out of whose mouths Horovitz’s words come were all one-time students of the professor/writer who became lovers and/or wives of the “rock star” university teacher. They arrive in succession at the Paris apartment that they each at various times shared with of the recently deceased centenarian.

There’s Evelyn (played by Debra Wise) 88, who is already at the apartment when Evvie (Paula Plum), a relative spring chicken at 68, arrives. A short time later, a somewhat younger Janice (Sarah Hickler) shows up. All three, it comes out in conversation, are Americans from the Boston area. Finally, there’s Marie-Belle (Obehi Janice) the youngest of them all and the late professor’s Senegalese widow who currently lives in the apartment and sent out invitations to others to come and attend the funeral.

While the two older women, Evelyn and Evvie claim to have no use for their self-absorbed former lover, the fact that they’ve traveled 3,000 miles from the states to attend his funeral suggests they continue to be haunted by him. Marie-Belle appears to be literally haunted. With upward turned, adoring eyes, she often addresses him and then conveys his responses to the others. She also occasionally breaks into fits of laughter as he “tickles” her from beyond the grave.

The unseen main character, the legendary professor, is never named, but only referred to by the second-person pronouns “he” and “him” (or is it He and Him?). And he is pretty much the only subject the women have any interest in discussing.

“Out of the Mouths of Babes” is the second play in a trilogy by Horovitz dealing with Americans in Paris. The first Play in the trilogy was “My Old Lady.” “Out of the Mouths of Babes” is a much lighter comedy than “My Old Lady.”

And it is a funny play. Horovitz knows how to write comedy and the jokes work, especially when delivered with caustic disdain by Plum and Wise.

But feminists may be put off by Horovitz’s apparent homage to a womanizing egomaniac who took full advantage of the so called “French marriage,” where women are expected to tolerate their husband’s infidelities, especially when he is so omnipotent that even in death he is able to give women orgasms.

C’est la vie. There is plenty to appreciate about this production, including its all-female cast, who work well together under Horovitz’s direction.

In all, an amusing way to spend a couple of late-summer hours.

Israel Horovitz’s Out of the Mouths of Babes runs through September 2 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm with a special Tuesday evening performance on Tuesday, August 29 at 7:30 pm. Following the 2 pm performances on Sunday, August 20 and Sunday, August 27 audiences are invited to free post-show discussions with the artists from Out of the Mouths of Babes. Single ticket prices are $32 to $42 with discounts available for Preview Performances, Cape Ann Residents, Senior Citizens and Patrons 25 years old and under. For more information about Gloucester Stage, or to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit http://www.gloucesterstage.com

[This review originally appeared in the August 15, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

(Photos by Gary Ng.)

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