Linda: The Nagging Crone

I walk around oozing questions about aging, beauty, and power, so people around me respond and make suggestions.  One wise woman told me to see Linda at the Manhattan Theatre Club, so I did.  

The play opens with an extremely pretty woman, Linda, claiming to be 58, making a presentation to a cosmetics company for a product called Visibility.  Inwardly I roared in response.  Hear Hear!  Or, rather, See See.  This unasked-for invisibility is a major theme that I and my actors are playing with.

Cut to her home, where her husband—let’s call him Dad, is involved with his devices as his daughter tells him why she would rather play Hamlet than Ophelia.   As the play progresses, both Dad and Linda repeatedly ask the daughter how her Ophelia monologue is going, despite her repeated announcements that she is playing King Lear “because he gets to go crazy like Ophelia but he has more lines.”

We see how Linda—let’s call her Mom, does everything at home, tries and fails to get anyone to help. At work, her campaign to sell products to women over 50 gets replaced by a campaign to sell aging products to 30-year olds because they already worry about getting old.  And so they should, we see, as Linda gets bumped and undermined and finally replaced while Dad has an affair with a younger woman whose own father was unavailable to her because of his affairs.  One daughter is cutting herself and living in a penguin suit (or some kind of animal—I’m over 50 so I forget) to make herself invisible after an ex-boyfriend with the help of mean girls posted her naked body all over social media, for the pain of which she somehow blames Linda (for not understanding).  The other daughter trying to challenge the patriarchy is completely unseen by either parent.

Linda tries to stay positive amidst all this absurdity, tries to play by the rules but it all collapses in the end.  It’s not a happy outcome.  There is no moral, no website link to an organization.

The audience was mostly composed of older women and their men, a smart but traditional crowd.  I heard one middle aged woman complain to her male companion that the play was poorly written and there was no substance to Linda’s rages, presumably because the content was cosmetics.  Personally, I think cosmetics, especially lipstick, carry a lot of information and I think by most criteria this play was written and performed pretty damn well.  But it is hard to hear a woman rant, expressing rage and helplessness. I can’t tell you how many wives I’ve worked with in my psychology practice who cannot get their families to clean up and, because they are accused of nagging, eventually just shut up and clean up.  It’s so much easier than exposing things as they are, pushing and persisting until people really get it.

Take a deep breath.  Exhale and push.  Inhale.  Exhale and push.  Repeat.

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