Play: Shirley Valentine
Company: Dramatic License Productions
Venue: Dramatic License Theatre, Chesterfield Mall
Dates: March 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16
Tickets: $18-$28; 636-821-1746 or DramaticLicenseProductions.org
Story: Shirley Bradshaw puts is only 42 years old, but she feels more like 142. It’s the mid-1980s, and Shirley lives a humdrum existence in a working-class neighborhood in Liverpool, England.
She and her husband, Joe, have two grown children who live away from home, a home where Shirley spends much of her time talking to the wall and referring to herself as Shirley Valentine, her maiden name. The wall generally is more responsive than Joe, who figures that since he is the breadwinner of the family, he expects his dinner ready on the table when he arrives home.
So, when Shirley’s best friend wins a trip for two to Greece and invites Shirley to join her, Shirley is intrigued. She’d like to go on holiday and snap out of her funk, but she doubts that Joe will let her. Will Shirley finally make a decision of her own?
Highlights: Playwright Willy Russell’s one-woman, two-act drama garnered some nifty prizes following its debut in Liverpool in 1986, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, as well as Olivier and Tony awards for best actress.
Local actress Teresa Doggett, who delivered an affecting performance as the title character in a rendition four years ago at Stray Dog Theatre, reprises her role in a charming and poignant portrayal at Dramatic License Productions.
For whatever reason, Doggett fumbled numerous lines on opening night. Perhaps she was reflecting Shirley’s uncertainty about traveling abroad without Joe’s consent? In any event, her powers of persuasion were more than able to compensate for those occasional glitches and to win over the audience with an enchanting and heartfelt interpretation of the lonely housewife.
Lee Anne Mathews directs with a sure and steady touch, gently coaxing a convincing portrayal by Doggett that tugs at the heartstrings.
For her part, Doggett easily moves between a number of characters besides Shirley, including voicing busybody neighbor Gillian’s snobbish superiority, daughter Milandra’s whiny self-centeredness and Joe’s mindlessly cruel disdain.
Shirley Valentine is resigned to her fate and diligent in handling the duties that life has thrust upon her, an acceptance that Doggett precisely conveys. When she takes a chance, though, at ‘jumping off the roof,’ you’ll find that you’re likely to root for her safe, and happier, landing.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.