New beginnings in A Feminine Ending’ 

East End Theatre Company presents Sarah Treem’s A Feminine Ending’

In
2 minute read
Peter Varga as Billy and Rachel Diamond as Amanda. (Photo by Cameron Gilkes)
Peter Varga as Billy and Rachel Diamond as Amanda. (Photo by Cameron Gilkes)

Plays and Players' Skinner Studio is a 50-seat space on the venerable theater's third floor. Many small professional companies have taken their first steps there, such as East End Theatre Company, debuting with Sarah Treem's romantic comedy A Feminine Ending.

The title references the fact that many languages maintain a "tyranny of gender" by mostly allowing only male noun forms. In French, heroine Amanda (Rachel Diamond) tells us, there is no feminine form of "composer," her chosen profession. A feminine ending also has connotations in music and poetry.

Bechdel Fail

Though Amanda discloses these discouraging meanings, she can't avoid their traps. Instead of finishing her symphony, she takes up with Jack (Arlen Shane Hancock), a promising pop vocalist. However, she admits, "In the moments when he's not singing, Jack's a hot mess." Love rules, though, so his career comes first. "We are this close to having an extraordinary life," Jack promises, but Amanda is doubtful -- and so are we.

When Amanda retreats to Connecticut because her mother (Monica Depaul) again threatens to leave her father (Robin Brecker), she meets cute with Billy, an old high-school flirtation played by Peter Varga, whose confident and witty performance makes us root for Amanda to choose him. "Why didn't you tell me you were this smart in high school?" she asks, smitten.

Who Amanda ends up with, how her parents resolve their differences, and what becomes of her composing career complete Treem's 90-minute story, which has some fun complications that help it transcend the typical Lifetime movie it first seems to be.

More music

The actors are the strength of Carly L. Bodnar's production, though Diamond's Amanda would be more believable with some sincere affinity for the script's musical demands. Sound designer Damien Figueras can't provide a convincing recording to represent her oboe playing and doesn't link the play's many scenes well with music; worse yet, his wind for the Billy-Amanda romantic orchard scene blows like a brewing tornado.

The director's set and staging are challenged by the play's episodic structure and the production's budget, but could still be more artful; the most exciting idea -- apple paintings representing that orchard -- is so far upstage that the effect feels timid. Treem's script provides many opportunities, but the production lacks boldness.

Nevertheless, a fresh new company exists. A Feminine Ending feels like a good beginning.

What, When, Where

A Feminine Ending. By Sarah Treem. Carly L. Bodnar directed. East End Theatre Company. Through February 5, 2017, at the Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia. (866) 811-4111 or playsandplayers.org.

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation