‘Madwoman’ loved by estrogen crowd but not males

[Woody’s Rating: ★★½☆☆

With all due respects to Honest Abe, “The Madwoman in Volvo” is not a show of the people, by the people and for the people.

It is, instead, of the women, by the women and for the women.

Men in the audience more likely than not are lug-alongs.

Trophy males even.

For the estrogen set, “Madwoman” is an intermission-less, autobiographical comedy at the Berkeley Rep that rockets through its hour and a half length.

For men?

Well, for me at least, it felt half again that long.

Sandra Tsing Loh (left) plays herself in “The Madwoman in the Volvo,” backed by Shannon Holt (center) and Caroline Aaron. Photo by Debora Robinson.

Sandra Tsing Loh (left) plays herself in “The Madwoman in the Volvo,” backed by Shannon Holt (center) and Caroline Aaron. Photo by Debora Robinson.

Despite writer-performer Sandra Tsing Loh’s consistently bright one-liners, extreme perkiness and gifted physical comedy.

Despite her being imaginatively supported by two versatile, veteran female actors in what might otherwise have been a more routine stand-up routine.

Despite her delving into menopause, adultery (with her agent cum second husband), midlife crisis, therapy, meditation, motherhood (and two teenage daughters) and a legion of other heavy topics.

Focusing periodically on California chic.

Or items that Marin County bubble-ites can relate to (like an affinity for kale).

Loh, an NPR personality and memoirist, is hilarious in reliving her trying to urinate in a Burning Man sandstorm, and her two buddies are uproarious as blotto attendees at a divorced parents party.

Other moments also rank high in hilarity.

Loh primarily thinks of herself as a humor monologist in spite of starring in this three-woman theatrical confessional based on her own best-selling book that accentuates menopause.

She clearly has a compulsion to confront what she’s previously said needn’t be limited to “being dried up and creepy and old and brittle and unattractive.”

Directed by Lisa Peterson, the Rep’s associate director who’d guided this production’s previous runs at Pasadena Playhouse and South Coast Repertory, “Madwoman” features a skinny backup, Shannon Holt, and one not so skinny, Caroline Aaron.

They change costumes and characters faster than the speeding bullet Superman is faster than: men, women and almost everything but a menopausal screaming hairy armadillo.

Loh, in contrast, sticks to one basic outfit: a dark leather jacket, jeans, a T-shirt with an imprint of a rocket, and, at the start, a beret and dark sunglasses.

The set is skimpy and virtually superfluous, but that doesn’t matter.

Nearly everything else is fodder for a gag (although there are scattered moments of poignancy), with the funniest, in my opinion, being Aaron’s rendition of a therapist coming unglued.

“Madwoman” begins with Loh goading the Berkeley audience into a collective primal scream about Trump’s victory. And it ends with a reference to her fear of an “orange-haired apocalypse.”

Sandwiched between are references to feminist Germaine Greer, whose female eunuch-ist book I remember, and inferno-ist Dante, whose other name (Alighieri) I usually forget.

Throughout the performance, women all around me squealed with soprano laughter and delight.

Their baritone companions, however, like me, struggled unsuccessfully to unfreeze their stone-faced expressions.

“The Madwoman in the Volvo” plays at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Peet’s Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley, through Jan. 15. Night performances, 7 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: $34.50 to $75, subject to change. Information: 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →