These days, women of all ages are concurrently howling in cities around the world.
They've howling with laughter about another kind of howling due to the effects of the inevitable menace of aging. They know well about attendant hot flashes, binge eating, major unexpected emotional swings and other pains in the ass … or somewhere near there. Such women have been delighting in productions of Menopause: The Musical.
These pre-sold audiences latch onto sisterhood. And they find hilarity in immediate-identification bits and shticks, the same sort of stuff standup comics rely on. The show features familiar, borrowed pop songs of several generations, with most evoking the 1960s, appropriate to the heady days when many of today's victims innocently thrived. Jeanie Linders transformed the songs, inserting clever new lyrics on menopause themes. She also wrote the snappy dialogue.
This off-beat touring hit, now at the Byham Theater, deals with four women from various walks of life meeting and connecting in Bloomingdale's, sharing their suffering, experiences and thoughts. Nothing deep. This production, credited to director Michael Larsen, keeps it simple and cartoonish, with unrelenting obvious playing. The cast milks every word, every gesture, every movement, all of which the opening-night Byham audience eagerly lapped up. Actually, such broad playing can dovetail with the idea that many menopausal women go through mental and psychological extremes.
Although "men" are in "menopause," males don't figure much in the sketchy material. Why should we? We can't relate to it, even if we understand the words.
Some guys may manage wan smiles when witnessing a production number about vibrators filling in for less-than-vibrant husbands. But they could remain in the dark about what's so funny in a long, wordless bit about a lumpy woman struggling to get into a tiny bra-thong one-piece while she's fully dressed. Or they might envy that older man in the front row being lap-danced by a member of the cast in a low-cut dress. Or they might find all of it pushy and dopey, wishing they were home watching football players ballet-dance touchdown celebrations.
Cynthia Jones stands out as Professional Woman; her versatile, powerful vocal presence makes every note a force to be reckoned with. But you've got to hand to the other three cast members. They go through the songs, the dances, the routines and the costume changes, punching them all up with non-stop energy.
Bring lots of Kleenex, Henry, and hold your wife's moist hand.
Menopause: The Musical continues through Sun., Jan. 20. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. 412-456-6666 www.pgharts.org