The characters in the Pro Femina Theatre's current production, "Marking Time," frequently respond to others' dilemmas with the advice, "Do what's comfortable for you." This kind of non-advice about serious problems -- a 49-year-old woman worried about accepting a date with a 28-year-old man, a young dancer deciding to move to New York, a daughter worried about having her mother move in -- is symptomatic of the limitations of this small company, which tries to make up in earnestness what it lacks in sophistication.
The result is that potentially absorbing situations are often reduced to crude skits. "Marking Time" presents five women at crucial moments in their lives. One, for example, is facing retirement and the possibility of having time to fulfill a longtime ambition to write; at the same time, her body is beginning to fail her. This situation and the character, naively but effectively drawn by Gay Hammerman, have every possibility of being touching and involving, but instead are treated almost parenthetically, as though a list had been drawn up of Topics for Discussion and this one was just number five. The situation of the older woman and the younger man would have been far more effective if they were both on stage talking about it, rather than just the woman.
The theater group, which is led by Leslie Bravman Jacobsen and creates plays about women, may be facing an identity crisis. Its work is simple and honest, but repetitive without being distinctive. There is too much Talk About Feelings, Being Honest and Open and Being Supportive of Other Women to make for enough theatrical variety. In "Marking Time" the character of the mother, Helen, was a welcome change -- a thoroughly uptight, proper matron who would rather lie than unveil her feelings. Evelyn Woolston does a good job with her, although when the character does break down, she is less than convincing.
The scenes are interspersed with "nightmares" that dramatize the fears of the individual women, which would be more effective if they did not require such lengthy scene changes. It is hard to see why a show that uses only movable wooden boxes for a set requires so much time between scenes. Susan Patz McInerney, Faida Lampley and Margo Tully round out the rest of the energetic cast.
The play will be performed at Grace Episcopal Church Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 5.