Thomas W. Stephens teaches theater at Randolph-Macon Women's College, which probably explains the all-woman cast of "A Memory for Saturday," now at the Washington Project for the Arts.
Source Theatre Company, a worthy but struggling experimental theater, has staged Stephens' play with loving concern and care.
It is a small, if well crafted, play. It portrays the confined world of five women from two Irish Catholic families in a medium-sized midwestern city during the Depression years of the early 1930s.
But if the men do not appear on stage, they always are present as reflected in the lives of the women. We hear the cough and step of the father, see the broken glass and splintered chair left by the three sons after a carousing night, and watch the refreshment being taken to the daughter's caller in the parlor.
Molly, the mother, is a portrait of stubborn, suffering strength played by Maureen Downing in a well-modulated performance.
"I have the mother's fierceness," she says after admitting that she really doesn't much care for her three loutish sons.
Rose, the daughter at home, pins her hopes on a five-year-old courthsip with an older man who leaves early on Saturday nights to take the train to Cleveland. Sylvia, the other daughter, comes home with her matched luggage from a comfortable marriage without happiness.
Downing's performance is backed up by the four other members of the cast. Paula Marmon is fine as the sharp-tongued but vulnerable Rose. There also are good performances from Linda Hall (Sylvia), Aileen Drennan, as the next-door neighbor, and Debra Stromberg as Dinah, Bea's daughter, the honest and bouncy neighborhood tart.
Dorothy Newuman, the director, has paced the show well but has to deal with patches of too much talkiness.
Hugh McKay has worked marvels with limited resources to produce an evocative set with right little touches: the cylindrical motor atop the refrigerator, the glass cone utensil to juice oranges by hand.
In the end, there is no gripping emotion, only a little sadness that the women's lives did not give them more happiness. Life has offered them so little. But then, they have offered little to life.
"A Memory for Saturday," will run through Feb. 3 at Washington Project for the Arts, 1227 G. St. NW, at Metro Center. Performances are at 8 p.m. every night except Monday with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees.