Dead Writers' "The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue" Preview - Jazz-Age Fashion Comes Alive


Dead Writers Theatre Collective presents David Grimm's The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue, a jazz-age romantic comedy freely adapted from Molière's Les Femmes Savantes on October 8-10 at Stage 773. “Set in a luxurious 1936 Manhattan penthouse, this comic classic takes place against the backdrop of the Great Depression and impending war,” says Collective Artistic Director Jim Schneider. “It’s a shrewd skewer into those who wear their social conscience on their high-fashion sleeves yet also a wonderful way to affirm that love conquers all.”



Authentic fashions play a key role in this wonderfully up-close small-stage show. "When doing a production in such an intimate space, the costumes have to truly enhance the storytelling -- offering insight into the characters and time period,” states costume designer Anne Stebbins. “Every detail becomes excruciatingly important as the audience can very literally see everything. It makes for great theatre."



Costumes also help connect the play to current times. “What has astonished me is how closely current day attitudes and high couture match up with those from the 1930’s,” says Managing Director Bob Douglas. “As always, we’ve worked hard to include all the details – right down to jewelry and accessories. If you enjoy fashion, you’ll love this fun, fully staged production.”

The script, written in verse, is witty while also humane and insightful. “We explore a true fondness for the foibles of Moliere’s flibbertigibbet bluestockings,” states Schneider. “Instead of a mean-spirited sendup of pseudo-intellectual pretension, we have a timeless fun-filled romp with a bit of bite to it.”

Directed by Collective Member Michael Graham, the cast includes: Joanna Riopelle as Phyllis Crystal, Bill Chamberlain as Henry Crystal, Mary-Margaret Roberts as Betty, Megan Delay as Ramona, Ken Miller as Dicky Mayhew, Betsy Pennington Taylor as Aunt Sylvia, Amy Gorelow as Magda, Kraig Kelsey as Upton Gabbit, Kevin Sheehan as Bains and Arbogast, and Joe Beal as Uncle Rupert.


Les Femmes Savantes, the historic play on which this show is based, was one of Moliere’s most popular comedies. It premiered on March 11, 1672, yet has lost none of its original insight, wit and fast-paced action. Betty wants to marry Dicky. Her mother, Phylis, a self-proclaimed intellectual and political activist, has another man in mind – Upton Gabbitt, a hack poet and scheming opportunist. Soon the battle lines are drawn with Betty's father, Henry, and Uncle Rupert plotting for Dicky while her sister, Ramona and Aunt Phyllis adore the poet.

Tickets are available at the Dead Writers website:  “This small, intimate space seats only 60 people,” says Schneider. “There are 7:30pm shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 8-10, as well as a 3:30pm Saturday matinee.

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