Language cannot always express the strong feelings of life. This is one of the reasons why we developed art. Music, painting, sculpture, film, poetry, creative writing and theater all provide ways to express the deepest realities of human existence in which mere words cannot approach. Even the arts, however, have often been so formalized that only one way of expression is considered “right.”
Language cannot always express the strong feelings of life.
This is one of the reasons why we developed art. Music, painting, sculpture, film, poetry, creative writing and theater all provide ways to express the deepest realities of human existence in which mere words cannot approach. Even the arts, however, have often been so formalized that only one way of expression is considered “right.”
The production of A Feminine Ending at Portland Center Stage focuses on this theme. The main character, Amanda, is an aspiring composer. As she explains to us, not only are there no famous female composers, but the term “a feminine ending” is a composer’s way of describing a weak ending. A feminine ending is one that doesn’t completely resolve.
Amanda has drifted a bit from her dream of being a working composer. She composes jingles for an advertising company, and gets engaged to her budding rock-star boyfriend. And she has begun to content herself with living vicariously through his success and being “the girlfriend.” That is, until she goes back home to her parents’ house for the weekend.
Her mother is threatening to leave her father again, this time “for real.” Amanda calls the bluff and is about to leave when she runs into an old flame from high school that now works for the small town’s postal service and lives next to her parents. One of the most interesting moments in the play comes when he describes what he learned during his abortive college experience studying linguistics.
A female linguist studied the ways men and women communicate, and found that nearly all Western languages are composed to facilitate masculine communication style. They are built around a series of opposites: light and dark, good and bad, etc. Women, however, tend to communicate in more fluid terms. In the Western world, they have no language well suited to that sort of communication.
Needless to say, meeting the old flame complicates Amanda’s life and throws the relationship with her boyfriend Jack into question. At one point, the play seems that it will give us a typical “romance movie” ending, but then it veers back toward reality. After all, an ending where everything is resolved would be a “masculine ending.” The way the play ends is ultimately, much more satisfying.
Brooke Bloom takes on the large and central role of Amanda, and handles it with aplomb. Her character reminds us a little of the main character from the movie Juno, except without the unintended pregnancy.
Sharonlee McLean and Ken Land did a great job playing the parents who have been married too long to have any romantic notions about the institution. Jedadiah Schultz brings a great slacker effect to the character of Billy, the old flame.
A Feminine Ending was originally developed at PCS’s “JAW: A Playwright’s Festival,” so it’s only right that it return to their stage. Audience members loved the play and it received a more enthusiastic response than any other play ever developed at JAW.
For all its female overtones, this play is easy to relate to–for everyone. Who hasn’t, if only for a moment, lost themselves in a relationship and forgotten their own dream? Who doesn’t struggle with the balance of closeness and independence with their parents? And who hasn’t, when confronted with the need to express deep internal truths, found themselves’ grasping for words and coming up short?
The theme of A Feminine Ending should come as a relief to those who feel words fail to convey what they truly feel. We paint, sculpt, sing, act, write, dance, knit, cook, perform religious rituals and countless other things to express what words cannot say. In the process, we come to understand what we want in life. Ultimately, that is more valuable than all the classroom discussions in the world.
A Feminine Ending Portland Center Stage Studio Theater at 128 NW 11th Ave. Playing until March 23Tues. to Sun. at 7:30 p.m. Noon matinee on Thurs. 2 p.m. matinee on Sat. and Sun. Tickets are $20 for students