Monday, April 13, 2009

Age of Arousal, Austin Playhouse Larry L. King Theatre, April 10 - May 10

Age of Arousal is a strange, febrile comedy. It's like Dickens on drugs, if Dickens were to write about a closed circle of odd women.

These women are "odd" both in the numerical meaning of "not in a pair" and in the metaphorical meaning of "singular" or "remarkable." They are not "unique," because playwright Linda Griffiths intends them to represent for us the plight of women in late 19th century England, where by demographic quirk women outnumbered men by 25%. The sentimental Victorian ideal of cozy, obedient matrimony was an impossibility for many women.

Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths took as her point of departure the 1893 novel The Odd Women by British author George Gissing.
Gissing was ranked by some contemporary British critics alongside Thomas Hardy and George Meredith. A brilliant student from working-class origins, Gissing was expelled from university for stealing from better-off classmates and briefly imprisoned. He spent a year in Chicago and then went back to England in 1877. He churned out a total of 23 novels before his death from emphysema in 1903.

Gissing's social themes were well ahead of his time. He wrote about exploitation of the poor, hypocrisy in religion, the injustices for women in conventional matrimony, and unscrupulous commercial practices.

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