Dee Wallace Stone and Ruben Garfias inIs It Hot in Here...or Is It Me?(Photo © Scotty Martin)
Dee Wallace Stone and Ruben Garfias in
Is It Hot in Here...or Is It Me?
(Photo © Scotty Martin)
Because I've lived 3,000 miles from my mother ever since her 40th birthday, everything I learned about menopause came from The Golden Girls. Now that I've seen the menopause comedy Is It Hot In Here...or Is It Me? at the Egyptian Arena in Hollywood, I still prefer my lessons from Blanche Devereaux. Directed by Johanna Siegmann, Is It Hot in Here...? plays like a "very special" episode of Designing Women as everyone on stage falls back on punch lines to mask the pain and anguish they suffer while going through menopause.

Gayle (Dee Wallace Stone) begins to sense the symptoms of menopause in her late 40s. The disturbance causes a rift in her marriage to Barry (Ruben Garfias) because of Gayle's mood swings and waning libido. At, first Barry refuses to admit that age has affected him too; but, over time, he and his wife recognize that they are both transitioning into a different stage of life and that they can either grow together or wallow in self pity and, ultimately, separate.

Gayle's alter-ego, "Rational Gayle" (Donna Cherry), takes Gayle to a string of different specialists who offer no wisdom or comfort; on the contrary, their cold manner is alienating. Finally, Gayle develops an equilibrium that allows her to move past the symptoms of menopause and accept the phenomenon as a bridge between youth and old age.

Adapted by Lina Gallegos from Gayle Sand's novel, Is It Hot in Here...? feels false; it's a manufactured piece that never gets to the root of how society punishes women for something as normal as fingernail growth. Instead, it travails along with kitschy songs that rhyme Viagra with Niagara and dialogue that contains phrases such as "...trading Tampax for Depends." Instead of being placed in Gayle's shoes, we are distanced from the character and her situation by cartoonish contrivances like Gayle and Barry pretending to be in a boxing ring, each flinging insults about the inadequacies of the opposite sex.

What the play does have in its corner is an engaging female lead. Dee Wallace Stone is winning as a woman on the edge; not looking any older than when she said adios to E.T., she displays incredible energy and pathos as Gayle. Garfias also adds weight to the frivolous script as Barry, a man who is self-consumed at first but who eventually behaves compassionately toward his wife. The rest of the cast members play caricatures and thereby disrupt any chance the audience has of connecting with them.

Roger Nelson's simple set of peach scrims work well, giving the actors mobility and allowing separation between the characters as the scrims define various locations.

I am not the prime target audience for Is It Hot In Here...or Is it Me?, which may be why I remained silent while everyone else in the theater howled. But one of the most important functions of theater is to offer revelations about things that lie outside our own personal experience. Is It Hot In Here...? brought me no closer to an understanding of how menopause can affect a marriage.