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The Housewives of Mannheim

The Phoenix Theatre's first show of 2010 is "The Housewives of Mannheim." Set in Brooklyn in 1944, the play showcases a very different world than the one that we know. It's a world where women are able to spread their wings and experience a bit of freedom for the first time in their lives. With their husbands away fighting World War II, the women are left to find their footing on their own. This provides a paradox for the characters, as they experiment with their freedom they also know that the change is a temporary one.

The play features four women who live in the same apartment complex. There is the prudish and meddlesome Alice, brassy Billie who has a mouth like a sailor, Sophie, a Jewish woman who is new to the building and fresh from the conflict in Europe and May, a young mother with a thirst for knowledge. Sophie's arrival changes the tenuous balance of the women's friendship.

May's kitchen serves as the delicious set. From the cereal boxes to the tiled floor, the design is perfect and it's executed with a flawless attention to detail.

The one problem I had with the play is the fact that it seems to equate a desire to learn or challenge oneself with sexual curiosity. Though May's desire to change something in her own life could be interpreted that way, simply writing her feelings off as only dealing with sexuality seemed to cheapen her undeniable yearning for a life filled with knowledge. When she rejects one, she rejects the entire world of possibilities that only moments before had enthralled her.

The most powerful scenes are the ones featuring the illusive Sophie, played beautifully by Martha Jacobs. The scenes where she connects with May are wonderful. A friendship slowly blossoms between the two women, forcing both to step outside of their comfort zones. The show sticks with you and leaves you wondering about that time period and marveling about how far we have come in the past few decades.

Don't Miss the Show
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.

Performances: The show runs until Feb. 6 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-PLAY (7529). Prices range from $15 to $20.

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre