BiCoastal Woman

I liked Steve Cahill's sound design a lot. And now to business. Manic-depressive Glenda Mortimer (Susan Clark) refers to herself as a "bicoastal woman" because bipolar sounds like "a bear that can't make up its mind." It's this sort of keen wit that informs most of Gary Socol's blobby script, which begins as an insipid exploration of friendship and ends as an urban potboiler with depression as the uninvited guest. Sensitive literary types will appreciate the ghost of Sylvia Plath that hovers o'er all.

In the first act, senior editor Glenda and her best friend, the funereally festooned makeup artist Joy (Chloe Webb), spend time discussing Glenda's recent ejection of her husband, all the while comparing mental disorders and drug dependencies with the same glee as ambitious Girl Scouts displaying merit badge sashes. That should have been my clue as to how women of such disparate ages and backgrounds became bosom buddies, but I'm slow that way. The answer is, of course, in rehab, and I tell you this so you don't waste the first act as I did, wondering in what universe this pivotal relationship could possibly exist.

The man in the mix is Glenda's doorman/writer, Paul (William Katt), whose play for Glenda's attentions is met with surprisingly speedy success. The issue in this pairing--besides sheer implausibility--is supposed to be the relative youth of Paul. The age spread appears to be months at best and, given Glenda's established age of 54, more likely minutes. Katt's miscasting, along with his charmless dialogue, sabotage his every effort to appear a viable character. Clark is stuck with the impossible task of turning wacky-crazy Glenda into shattered-crazy Glenda at the end of Act One, an attempt that jars, it seems so false a turn.

Things don't improve in Act Two when, after an eventful intermission, everybody is suddenly happy. Well, for a while. Clark makes a noble attempt, but depressed people who sit around and talk about being depressed just aren't interesting. Webb comes off as an urban cliche, the sexual opportunist who vocalizes everything as a modulated yawp. She makes a great sidekick but she never registers as much of a person. Ela Jo Erwin's costumes generally work for Glenda, although the fur coat seems out of character. On the other hand, we are to believe that Joy negotiates Manhattan in outfits that rarely leave upscale hotel bars, while Paul wears things that only emphasize youth's distant passage. I'm not sure what director Jenny Sullivan did to shape the piece, as it's impossible to pin down just what the production is. Gary Wissmann's apartment set, while lovely to look at, is as uninvolving as the creatures who inhabit it.