Off Broadway West Theatre Company presents….
INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM by John Orlock …a glimpse into what we once were.

Being an old maid is like death by drowning,
A really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle.
Edna Ferber
If you ever doubt how much freedom and choice women have achieved in this past century, see Off Broadway West’s production of INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM. You will meet two sisters in their mid-thirties, Florence (Jocelyn Stringer) and Viola (Kim Saunders) living in Louisville, Kentucky at the turn of the century. They are unmarried and dependent on their uncle for all financial decisions. At that time, there was no internet dating and respectable ladies could not go into a bar to meet a husband. Yet, a husband was the only passport to “the good life.” In those days, women could only become secretaries, maids, whores or wives and the roles for each job were almost identical.

Marriage was so important for respectability at that time that love didn’t figure into the equation. You might meet someone in church, or perhaps while walking in the park but it was unlikely. Unless your family or friends introduced you to an eligible bachelor, you were locked into the dull, thankless and very boring life of a spinster. That was where mail order brides came in. Men would advertise for a women and find their match, but what was a woman to do? John Orlock found one answer: a catalogue of eligible respectable, professional men. “We can all relate to the ‘mail order husband” process as we live in an era of online dating,” said Director Richard Harder. “And it‘s interesting and fun to observe this, in an earlier form during the beginning of the twentieth century. The mystery and adventure associated with this process is full of surprises and sometimes dramatic turns.”

Harder’s direction keeps up the pace and interest in what would otherwise be a shallow , vapid script and the four actors, do their best with highly predictable dialogue. Sylvia Kratins’ costumes are delightful and Bert van Aalsburg’s set is a masterpiece. The audience is feels as if it is sitting right in the two sisters’ parlor when they meet and entertain their very unusual “gentlemen callers.”

Winfield Davis (Paul Stout) is the voice for mesmerist Amos Robbilet (Damien Cin Seperi) and must speak for both of them as they court the sisters with an eye to gaining control of their finances and their property. One wonders if such a thing could happen today and indeed it could but under the guise of an on line dating service where we each describe ourselves as we wish we could be.

The only way to understand the present is to see the past. You will get an all too accurate picture of the single woman’s dilemma in Orlock’s INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM.

The reason for much matrimony is patrimony.
Ogden Nash

INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM continues until July 30 at The Phoenix Theatre, Suite 601, 414 Mason Street in San Francisco.
Tickets: $40 (with discounts available) at 415 407 3214 or www.offbroadwaywest.org