Sort of like Sex and the City: The Later Years, Kathryn Graf’s The Snake Can, making its world premiere at the Odyssey Theatre, focuses on the lives of three single women looking for love and personal fulfillment while staring into the face of middle age.
Harriet (Jane Kaczmarek) is a widowed single mother who realizes that life is passing by and makes the decision to find a new romance. Nina (Diane Cary) is an aspiring painter who, weary of living in the shadow of her famous actor husband, Paul (Gregory Harrison), has made the decision to leave him to follow her artistic pursuits. Twice-divorced Meg (Sharon Sharth) serves as a kind of role model for the other two, having navigated the waters of singledom for the past 10 years and faced it bravely with her sanity —and sense of humor — intact.
Harriet arranges a date with Stephen (James Lancaster), whom she’d been corresponding with online for weeks. She is surprised to meet a colorful, rather flamboyant individual who professes a fondness for the company of men as well as women. Nina begins to question her true talents as an artist and wonders if she’d have been better off staying with Paul. Meg, meanwhile, goes through a series of bum dates and also considers starting something with Paul, with whom she’d shared a longtime unspoken attraction.
It’s tricky business to put a fresh spin on this kind of familiar territory, but Graf’s work manages to raise itself above Lifetime movie-of-the-week level with some well-drawn characters, insight, and standout performances. The playwright drew upon her own experiences as the widow of an actor and it shows. Her characters are real, living people whose circumstances and challenges are easily recognizable.
Kaczmarek brings real commitment to Harriet, and Lancaster provides perfect support as her sexually flexible amour. It is for these characters that Graf has written some of the most convincing dialogue. Cary is good as the wannabe artist who is dazed by the fact that she left a seemingly-perfect marriage to start creating paintings with her body parts as brushes, and her meltdown in the second act is quite persuasive.
Sharth also scores as the brassy Meg, whose outgoing demeanor conceals her fear of being alone, and Joel Polis does fine double-duty as Meg’s awful date and one of Stephen’s catty ex-lovers. Harrison has the opportunity to have fun here with his own image as the TV hunk of Trapper John M.D. and For Ladies Only, but he comes off somewhat subdued, and his character’s motivations aren’t always clear.
The Snake Can plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 24 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling 310-477-2055, ext. 2.
Photo by Ed Krieger