One of Jacksonville's local community theatres, The 5 & Dime, has begun a run of a new show: Laura Schellhardt's 2015, three-woman play, The Comparables. The well executed production brings to life two conflicting viewpoints on the struggle of women in patriarchal society, as well as the dangers of greed and manipulation, delivering its message with whit and humor, rather than over-the-top preaching.
The Comparables tells the story of 3 women working at a real estate boutique in New York City. The first is Monica (played by Kristin Livingston), a hard working, independent woman who has worked at the boutique for 10 years, and is expecting to inherit it as her aging boss' career comes to an end. The second is Iris (played by Milan Alley), a new hire for the boutique who brings her tactics of seduction and manipulation into the workplace, much to Monica's discontent. The final character in the play is Bette (played by Gretta Russe), the powerful and famous boss of the boutique who, though seemingly wise, often takes Monica's hard work for granted, eventually leading to a power struggle between the three women over ownership of the business.
The acting in this production is what steals the show, particularly Livingston's portrayal of Monica. Livingston does an excellent job of establishing Monica as a character who promotes female empowerment through independence and hard work. However, Livingston is also able to subtly show Monica's inherently timid personality buried beneath a layer of false confidence. As the play progresses, Monica begins to break down and abandon her beliefs for those Iris has put upon her. Livingston's acting range can be seen here, as she slowly turns Monica from a cooperative, happy-go-lucky employee into an angry, demanding one open to objectifying herself.
The performances of Alley as Iris and Russe as Bette also help to build highly dynamic characters with realistic motives and beliefs. Alley brings to the show an air of seductive confidence that helps to portray Iris' controversial views towards men and her manipulative behaviors, making her the perfect antagonist to foil Monica. Russe's portrayal of Bette is one much akin to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Whilst developing a character with wisdom and confidence, she is also able to show flaws within a character who is often seen as infallible.
Though the acting is superb, it is also important to recognize Kelby Siddons’ directing. The pacing of the play allows it to flow easily and freely, despite such a small set and cast. On top of that, the blocking feels incredibly natural, and the play as whole was dynamic yet easily accessible, making The Comparables a must see for fans of local theatre.