Melodrama and Mayhem on Main Street!
By Louise Bryant, Alice Gerstenberg, and Susan Glaspell
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
Hoping to offer a historical reminder of how far women have come in the last century, the Woman Seeking . . . theater company has put together Melodrama and Mayhem on Main Street!, an enjoyable program of six short plays, written between 1916 and 1921, by three early feminists and indie-theater pioneersLouise Bryant, Alice Gerstenberg, and Susan Glaspell. Capably directed by Christine Mosére and Dan Jacoby with a strong cast of 11, the production includes the apparent world premiere of Bryant's From Paris to Main Street, which was found in her papers donated to Yale. The story concerns a free-spirited Parisian woman whose new American husband and overbearing mother-in-law (the terrific Rhonda Ayers) attempt to change her in order to fit in with their small-town neighbors (most bizarre to modern audiences: the makeover includes killing her dog). Not a subtle playwright, Bryant hits the audience over the head with agenda-driven lines, like stating that America's freedom is "freedom to be like everybody else." The program's highlights are all by Gerstenberg and Glaspell, most notably Glaspell's murder mystery Trifles, which focuses on domestic violence and, sadly, feels almost as though written today.