Margaret Bush, standing at center, stars as hair salon owner Bev in “The Wicked Women of Whynot” at The Footlights Theatre in Falmouth through Aug. 29. Photo courtesy of The Footlights Theatre

Set in a hair salon in Mississippi, “The Wicked Women of Whynot” centers around four menopausal women in their 50s and their newly acquired friend, Matty (Francesca Jellison), who is on the cusp at 49.99 years old.

Written and directed by Footlight Theatre’s executive artistic director Michael J. Tobin, the play is an entertaining and sweet production. It’s new and could use some smoothing out, particularly the abrupt ending, but will likely undergo tweaks during the run.

The plot is a somewhat familiar one, but Tobin has given it his own spin. Think Norm Foster’s “The Ladies Foursome” meets “Steel Magnolias,” and you’ll have an idea of the direction and tone. The play has all the banter, camaraderie and sentimentality, rolled into one.

Margaret Bush is the heart of the play as the salon owner, Bev. She has been performing up and down the East Coast for more than 20 years and is no stranger to Maine. As the daughter-in-law and sister-in-law of the 41st and 43rd presidents, respectively, she regularly vacations at Walker’s Point with the family during the summer and has been seizing the opportunity to perform in New England while here.

Bush was a charming combination of wit and pathos as Bev at the sold-out opening night performance. The ultra-petite actor lent believability as a feisty breast cancer survivor, although it was hard to believe she was dieting without success.

Pamela Battin-Sacks (Sarah), Julie Poulin (Rita) and Jessica Chaples-Graffam (Clara) co-star as Bev’s friends, along with Jellison as Matty. They keep the laughs coming with performances that highlight their characters’ distinct and kooky personalities.

“Here in the South, we don’t hide crazy,” Clara declares. “We just invite it up on the porch and offer it a cocktail.”

Clara has clearly taken more than her fair share of sips from that cocktail, and Chaples-Graffam plays up her character’s off-the-wall nature with wonderfully timed facial expressions and no-holds-barred antics.

All five actors deliver the play’s jokes and jives with finesse as their characters dish about menopause, men, marriage, love, life and friendship. Poulin is entertainingly competitive as Rita, and Battin-Sacks doles out Sarah’s caustic sarcasm with comic delight. Like Chaples-Graffam, Jellison is a hoot as Matty, delivering facial expressions that are must-see.

Under the hilarity, Tobin has interwoven the theme of cancer as the ladies prepare to perform in the local talent competition to benefit the cause. The serious topic gives the play touching moments.

Tobin is the man behind the scenes, providing the “on air” voice of Sarah’s DJ husband Jackson, who gets in some sassy quips of his own. In addition to writer and director, Tobin serves as set, prop, light and sound designer, adding cute touches.

If you’re a peri-, post- or menopausal woman (or living with one), “The Wicked Women of Whynot” will likely tickle your funny bone. The play and its five funny ladies deliver plenty of witticisms to keep the laughter flowing and a touch of solemnity to keep it real.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: [email protected].

Twitter: @ahboyle


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