Review: In ‘Wives,’ the Other Halves Have Their Say

Review: In ‘Wives,’ the Other Halves Have Their Say

The rancor subsides after Henri’s death, when the rivals realize that in sisterhood there is strength, and that women united might just bring harmony to the world. (Catherine would subsequently be notoriously associated with the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots, but never mind.)In another sequence, set in the twilight of the Raj in India, it’s not the husband — Maharajah Madho Singh II — who’s the oppressor. His Highness (Mr. Sridiharan, sounding oddly like James Stewart) gets along just fine with his maharani (Aadya Bedi) and his favorite concubine (Purva Bedi), who is rumored to be a witch. Instead, it is one Aloysius Patterson (Adina Verson), a representative of the British Crown, who is the villainous subjugator.In other words, we have shifted, a bit joltingly, from the evils of plain old patriarchy to those of colonialism. We stretch even further thematically for the concluding scene, wherein a student at the portmanteau Oxbridge University joins an academic witches’ coven to claim her sovereign identity, a process overseen by a portrait of Virginia Woolf.By that time, “Wives” has devolved from enjoyable, slapdash satire into a consciousness-raising pep rally. Under the typically antic direction of Ms. Bordelon (who did the rock-bio spoof “Dave and Eddie”), this is all performed with enjoyable brio by the cast of four. (Ms. Verson, who is hilarious as a Julia Child-like 16th-century French cook, could slide right into the ensemble of “Saturday Night Live.”)But as the focus keeps shifting, the energy dissipates. The play starts to feel like a stoned brainstorming session in a college dorm room, whose participants segue from delighted goofiness into sloppy, sentimental sincerity. Like such gatherings, “Wives” doesn’t quite know when to call it a night.WivesTickets Through Oct. 6 at Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan; 212-279-4200, playwrightshorizons.org. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.


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