Gretchen Cryer

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Julius Novick

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 571

Ms. Cryer sets forth the story of Heather Jones [in I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road] in terms of feminist cliches. Heather tells us that she was "Daddy's smiling girl," and then she was her husband's smiling girl, because she was expected to be; but ninety-eight years after the first production of [Henrik Ibsen's] A Doll's House, this is not precisely a new insight. And I am sick and tired of the bit about the crass male who says approvingly of some bright woman that she has "brains like a man." Even if that one does persist in real life, can't we give it a rest in the theatre?

Ms. Cryer's show is not simply a performance of Heather's act; what we see is a rehearsal for the benefit of Joe, her manager, who is an insensitive oaf. He doesn't like her new, tough songs; they threaten him. Every few minutes, he interrupts with the most painfully obvious ojections, to which Heather replies with equally obvious feminist justifications. Joe can't see why Heather won't stick to her old stuff, especially his favorite, "In a Simple Way I Love You": "I will listen while you sing your song, / While you do what you have to do. / I'll stand behind you rain or shine …" Reluctantly she sings it for him—and then breaks off and screams, "I can't keep doing this!" "It sounds great," he replies, "what's the matter?" Well, where the hell has he been for the last decade or so? Joe is Ms. Cryer's worst mistake: Not only is he implausibly—and maddeningly—obtuse in himself, but it weakens Heather to have no one to play against but this one-dimensional punching bag.

And yet Ms. Cryer has not written the feminist equivalent of a "get whitey" play. Fundamentally, she is looking not for revenge but for understanding, and here and there she even finds some…. [Actor] Don Scardino turns on some high-voltage, impish charm as a musician who is attracted to Heather though, or because, she is thirty-nine and he is twenty-four. He even sings her a few lines of "In a Simple Way I Love You," but Heather ignores him. A pity: Their relationship might have been more interesting than anything Ms. Cryer has actually written. I'm Getting My Act Together is not a debacle, only a promising opportunity missed. Purged of the obnoxious Joe, who does not sing, it might have made—might still make—a record album with tides of feeling that men and women of good will might reasonably get off on.

Would I'm Getting My Act Together mean something special to a woman? You'll have to ask a woman. I spoke only to one, aged twenty-two, who said she was tired of thirty-nine-year-old women and their problems. Nobody ever asked her to smile and be a beauty queen and pick up men's socks. Was I, like Joe, threatened as a man by Heather the Strong Woman? Maybe, but I doubt it. Ms. Cryer's Act reminded me of a lot of platitudinous plays and musicals that had nothing to do with feminism. "To be a playwright is to see," said Ibsen. Ms. Cryer has just not been able to see deeply enough. (p. 80)

Julius Novick, "Heather and Wan" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1978), in The Village Voice, Vol. 23, No. 26, June 26, 1978, pp. 79-80.

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