Post-feminist metaphors, accessorized

Special to The Times

The sheen of lucid stagecraft bedecks “String of Pearls” at Lankershim Arts Center. Michele Lowe’s arresting populist fable, which links a wide swath of modern womanhood by way of the title jewelry, receives a glowing West Coast premiere by the Road Theatre Company.

Although playwright Lowe employs a literary conceit used by filmmaker Julian Duvivier in “Un Carnet de Bal” and “Tales of Manhattan,” the way she incorporates it has dramatic ingenuity.

Moreover, Lowe draws the 27 characters that appear, as the pearls change hands and conditions, with humor, pathos and perception.


Accordingly, director Stephen Sachs casts four formidable actresses to play this panoply. Suanne Spoke, whose grandmother figure begins “String of Pearls” by elegizing a lost necklace she hoped to give her grandchild, invests diverse parts with an earthy virtuosity that recalls Judith Ivey. Jacqueline Schultz brilliantly bends her regal presence and emotional acumen to fit roles that vary from monster mother to Nazi survivor to amorous lesbian. Alicia Wollerton moves between hilarious and wrenching without hesitation, her weary caregiver especially potent, and Stephanie Stearns, edgy, loopy and vulnerable by turns, seems incapable of a false move.

This quartet gracefully negotiates Desma Murphy’s sleek amphitheater set, aided by Christian Epps’ stellar lighting right up to the satisfying finale. Sachs and his designers certainly give polished support. Like the other elements, David B. Marling’s rangy sound, Lee Osteen’s delicate music and Shon LeBlanc’s purple-toned wardrobe serve storytelling without excess.

Inevitably, there are a few digressions and East Coast-centric references, but nothing keeps us from being engrossed. Carrying an elegance that elevates its chick flick contours, “String of Pearls” is lustrous entertainment, and the players who wear its post-feminist metaphors are a top-notch matched set.


‘String of Pearls’

Where: Road Theatre at Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: March 26

Price: $25

Contact: (866) 811-4111 or

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes