Theater review: ‘Mercy Warren’s Tea’ at the Odyssey Theatre

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And you thought the founding fathers had all the fun. Jovanka Bach’s “Mercy Warren’s Tea,” now at the Odyssey, presents Revolution politics as full-on catfight. Massachusetts, 1783: Mrs. Warren (Donna Luisa Guinan), whose satirical plays roused patriotic sentiment, invites old friend Abigail Adams (Mona Lee Wylde) over for some girl talk -- and a chance to meet Peggy Arnold (Susan Ziegler), wife of the notorious traitor. When a Native American woman (Tanya Starcevich) storms in on the trio with a gun, the fur is really set to fly.

But Bach pulls a bit of a bait and switch, and her delicious premise somehow loses its tartness. “Tea” touches on intriguing topics — the class politics behind Benedict Arnold’s betrayal, the limited rights of 18th century female writers — but the expected showdown between Peggy and Abigail gets sidelined in favor of a exposition-heavy revelation from a young soldier (Johanna Watts).

Director John Stark keeps the pace brisk, though his cast is still finding the play’s comic rhythms. Wylde hones in on Abigail’s starchy virtue, and Ziegler enjoys Peggy’s utter lack of remorse. Playwright Bach is sadly no longer with us; maybe someone else should write a second half for this amusing but unfinished effort.

— Charlotte Stoudt

“Mercy Warren’s Tea” The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 20. $18. Contact: (310) 477-2055 or Running time: 90 minutes.