Eccentric 'Changes' Entertains at Stages

In Barbara Tarbuck's one-woman "Changes" at Stages, the playwright-actress has a particularly eloquent silent partner, Germaine Greer, upon whose writings Tarbuck has based much of her play. (Greer gave Tarbuck permission to borrow from her works but had no other input in the show.)

The two central characters in the piece are Tarbuck and Greer, both of whom are portrayed as contemporaries at various stages of their lives. However, the primary conflict concerns how the two women cope with the female climacteric, or, more simply put, menopause.

Tarbuck's take on famed feminist scholar Greer seems a bit too girlishly adoring at junctures. In fact, as far as theater pieces go, this is an oddity worthy of Ripley's. Yet Tarbuck is no mere mouthpiece for her muse. Her curious, digressive monologue, which mingles Tarbuck's own personal recollections with the sardonic wisdom of Greer, remains thoughtful and entertaining despite--or because of--its eccentricity.

As a performer, Tarbuck is a trim, fit dynamo at the peak of her craft. Under the sensitive direction of Paul Verdier, she commands the audience's attention and empathy throughout. As a writer, she is somewhat more random. However, there's a pointed theme underlying Tarbuck's enterprise, which tells us that, for women past child-bearing age, true "liberation" is the serenity that comes as one's youthful obsession with personal appearance fades. For women of whatever age, it's a welcome "change."

* "Changes," Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Wednesdays, 8; Sundays, 3. Ends April 30. (Dark April 9.) $18. (213) 465-1010. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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