It’s impossible to encapsulate the full extent of Dorothy Parker’s magnetic works – the various nuanced writings of someone who was a poet, a short story writer, a critic, a political activist and a depressive, as well as a fixture of New York literary society. Even now her works remain in a class of their own. A Certain Lady – currently running at the Alexander Bar – offers a poignant glimpse of the inspiration behind the Lost Generation’s inimitable leading lady by summarizing a selection of her most renowned short stories, including The Waltz and The Garter.
The plotline kicks off with an exhilarating entrée before going on to address the emotional turmoil experienced during various social interactions. A profound streak runs through the humorous irony as Parker’s protagonist, ‘The Lady’, refers to her unrequited attraction for a certain ‘man about town’. A Certain Lady leads us into a squeamish tale of the idiosyncratic and anti-Puritanical woman, with exaggerated mannerisms exquisitely true to the era of silent cinema.
Dorothy Parker’s works have been referenced continuously over the decades. But director Greg Kavellas, together with his violently good lead, former Fleur Du Cap nominee Emily Child, gives us a powerful and fresh twist, as if this is our first time in the ring. Karvellas stresses the timelessness of Dorothy Parker’s literary works, explaining how the internal conflict and drive her characters display are still wholly relevant in our current social structure. Sure enough the audience was unanimous in their rousing applause for what was, patently and proudly, a tale of their own cultural DNA.
The part of ‘The Lady’ – a wise-cracking and troubled misfit who takes centre stage in most of Parker’s works – requires a phenomenal craft to balance her acerbic wit with the quasi-feminist monologue. Emily Child has always been fascinated with Parker’s short stories and this production is her second foray into the works. As such, she has immersed herself with ease and flair into ‘The Lady’, accentuating it with salient and relevant sound effects and authentic mannerisms. A noticeable emphasis has been placed on her accent; a faint Bryn Mawr meets eloquent 1920’s New York – a quality touch.
A Certain Lady evokes fragments of a bygone era, imbuing it with a wit so winning and characters so familiar, that audiences coming fresh to the play could not ask for a more exciting introduction.
Benn Van Der Westhuizen
A Certain Lady is running at Alexander Bar from 17 February until 1March.