The Female of the Species tries hard be a farce about feminism. Margot Mason, world-famous author of The Cerebral Vagina, is struggling to write her next book when a spurned former student enters her home, pulls out a gun, and vows to kill her—right after tea. Meanwhile, a string of characters wander in and pounce on the opportunity to tell Mason how feminism has ruined their lives. Instead of trying to save her, the characters egg her captor on.
Even when she's handcuffed to a desk, Mason (Suzy Hunt) owns the stage. "Feminism needs theatricality or else it's just one pompous bilge," she grandly espouses. Mason is bitchy, sharp, and confident that while she's just making shit up about women, the shit she makes up is always right. Her captor, Molly Rivers (Renata Friedman), starts out hysterical and has nowhere to grow from there—either she's waving her gun around or she's waiting patiently for her turn to wave it around.
Most of the play's flaws lie in the script by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith. Inspired by a hostage situation involving feminist icon Germaine Greer, The Female of the Species fails as a farce, landing one tired joke about women ("Some of the ugly ones launched a little experiment called feminism") after another ("I'm old—I remember when a Brazilian was a person"). The play's staleness is especially tragic because it has the potential to pack a punch—one woman holding another at gunpoint for dictating how all women should behave, a feminist who can't say she loves her daughter, another mother who throws herself under a train to prove she's a feminist. There are a few sharp lines in the piece: "My mother died with a Cerebral Vagina clutched in her hand," moans Rivers at one point. However, in a farce about women, Mason's sensitive son-in-law Bryan Thorton (Paul Morgan Stetler), who confuses "Horatio" with "fellatio" and blithely exchanges Rivers's gun for a cup of soup, is the only consistently funny character.
The 90-minute production feels like a tourist trap—the sort of entertainment your out-of-town mother would dearly enjoy. Mason is freed and everyone winds up with a book deal and someone to love. It would've been more satisfying if, halfway through, someone had just killed the bitch.