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Linda
Photograph: Richard Termine

Theater review: The lady refuses to vanish in Penelope Skinner's Linda

By
Adam Feldman
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★★★★☆

As she keeps reminding herself, Linda (Janie Dee) is a success: a powerful exec at a cosmetics company called Swan, with a happy family and a still-trim figure. The latter point at least is undeniable. She tries to remain—as her teenage daughter (Molly Ranson) says—“Mrs. Positive,” even when it comes to her damaged older daughter (Jennifer Ikeda), who hides her body in a skunk onesie. But at 55, she is acutely aware of her professional and sexual marginalization as a no-longer-young woman. When Amy (Molly Griggs), an ambitious 25-year-old shark at Swan, proposes marketing antiwrinkle cream to women in their twenties, Linda offers an impassioned plea for visibility. “Look at me! Listen to me!” she insists at the end of Act I. “I will not disappear!” And then the lights cut out.

Penelope Skinner’s Linda raises important questions with bracing rhetorical force, and Lynne Meadow’s MTC production has two huge assets: Walt Spangler’s stunner of a rotating set, which helps create cinematic montage effects, and, especially, Dee’s superb turn as the title character, at once indomitable and vulnerable. In defiance of the notion that women’s stories have lower stakes, Skinner pushes the story into King Lear territory in the play’s second half, and the engineering is sometimes too obvious. But the play, flawed like Linda, demands to be seen.

Manhattan Theatre Club (Off Broadway). By Penelope Skinner. Directed by Lynne Meadow. With Janie Dee. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission. Through Apr 2. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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