Ladies Who Punch

Elaine Stritch evokes laughter that does just the opposite. There's not a moment of mean-spiritedness in even her most bitter memories. But there's plenty of humorous self-criticism. As a young up-and-comer, she dumps Ben Gazzara for Rock Hudson: "We all know what a bum decision that turned out to be," she says, banging her head against a chair.

The Women: director Scott Elliott’s misogynist cartoon
photo: Joan Marcus
The Women: director Scott Elliott’s misogynist cartoon


Elaine Stritch at Liberty
By Elaine Stritch and John Lahr
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street

The Women
By Clare Boothe Luce
Roundabout Theatre Company
227 West 42nd Street

Stritch speaks frankly about her drinking habit: "I was knocking 'em dead in the U.K. I was also, a little more frequently, knockin' 'em back." Though the narrative spirals into Oprah territory, Stritch's full-out renditions of some of her signature songs—"Zip," "Ladies Who Lunch," and even a wonderfully tan-trumy take on "I'm Still Here"—keep the focus on her success. Overall, Stritch's pure love of show business and her magisterial command onstage offer the theater as a place of deep humanity and grace. In these grievous times, that's an especially precious gift.

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