Film

Aging Actress Doc Life of an Actress Is a Timid and Slapdash Musical

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Female thespians over 40 who aren’t named Meryl Streep seem to end up in one of three roles for the rest of their careers: the mom, the witch, or the aging actress.

Movies about the latter, usually made by men, tend to be a kind of insult — self-centered assertions that what men value most about women is what women also value most about themselves. At least writer-director Paul Chau did his research. The theater producer interviewed actresses aged 23 to 70 in a documentary called Life of an Actress, then converted their testimonies into a timid and slapdash musical with the same name.

“Is it too much to ask for a glimmer of hope for the future?” wonders 41-year-old Hannah (Tony-nominated Orfeh, who somehow manages to belt out that train of prepositional phrases). After years of auditions, Hannah has grown thicker skin than 30-year-old Sandy (Allison Case) or 25-year-old Jen (Taylor Louderman, who hasn’t yet discovered the difference between screen and stage acting).

Save for a shallow storyline about the casting couch, the musical is disappointingly reticent about the pervasive sexism that would make a girl in her twenties feel like she’s already past her prime. Rather, the trio of New York women go through familiar, gender-neutral experiences like humiliating auditions, long-distance relationships, and competitions for jobs. A delightful pirouetting duel between unionized and non-unionized actors to the tune of “I Wish That I Was SAG” can’t make up for the lumpy, dumpy songs or the final (and fatal) turn toward melodrama.

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