About The Play: Women in Jeopardy!
Crime and punishment. Law and order. Wine and cheese.
One of these is not like the others, except in Wendy MacLeod’s Women in Jeopardy!, a perfectly structured mash-up of a police procedural and Real Housewives, but with a bit more heart.
MacLeod, noted playwright, essayist, and professor at Kenyon College in Ohio, gives us three women – best friends – at a moment in their lives that may seem familiar to some audience members. They’ve reached a point in their lives where the kids, if they had them, are mostly on their own, they are looking at the next phase of careers, and, for all three, they are looking at what might be on the horizon in terms of romance.
The pickings, as they say, are somewhat slim. But Liz thinks she has hit the jackpot with Jackson – he is a doctor. A dentist! Her friends Mary and Jo find him creepy and potentially dangerous. She is just happy she feels something again after her divorce.
MacLeod’s play has been compared to Sex in the City, or Thelma and Louise, or even The First Wives Club (all of the women are single), and previous incarnations of the play suggest that it thrives on door slamming, mistaken identity, and wacky high jinks, with a bit of chardonnay thrown in for good measure.
However, one might argue that there is a bit more social commentary than initially meets the eye.
Women make up 50.52% of the population in the United States, 57.4% of the workforce is female, and 23% of women ages 30-49 (the demographic of Liz, Mary, and Jo) are single (that number rises to 28% for ages 50-64). What happens to a mid-life, mid-career woman when she is single? Who does she turn to? She turns to her girlfriends.
The friendship among the women in Women in Jeopardy! is what compels Mary and Jo to go to truly insane efforts to try and figure out if Jackson is not just a creeper murderer but, more importantly, if he is worthy of Liz. They want to protect her, as they have before – her husband left her for another woman and she is slowly returning to her own self (albeit with some potential blind spots). Her friends have had their own pain and loss as well; they are, as Mary says, “women in sensible shoes doing Fun Runs and book clubs.” While they are working out whether or not their BFF is dating a man who would kill a hygienist, they are actually playing out the thing that women the world over have done since the beginning of time: building a community of trust, acceptance, and love.
Consider how they seek to protect Amanda, Liz’s daughter, who has equally questionable taste in men, from the on-again, off-again relationship she has with Trenner. MacLeod describes him as “sweet, but not too bright.” Amanda herself is not a rocket scientist, but she is as deserving of a stable, respectful relationship as her mother and her friends. They throw out their own plans and kick into full “mama bear” mode.
As the story unfolds, we are reminded that the women have a history of putting their own issues on hold in the service of their friendship. They are sometimes misguided and often put themselves in, well, jeopardy, but they are resourceful. And let’s be honest: a good murder mystery is a pretty exciting detour from the humdrums of daily life.
Liz, Mary, and Jo remind us that men may come and go – as do jobs and heartbreaks – but a good group of girlfriends is all that one needs for a happy life. Here’s to friendship.