Take a few middle-aged women who are best friends, throw in a creepy new boyfriend, a beautiful young daughter and the Utah wilderness and you have the makings of the next play set to open at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre on Feb. 10.
“Women in Jeopardy!” is written by Wendy MacLeod and set in Utah with action taking place in both Salt Lake City and southern Utah.
“I was out here in 2012 while working on a different project and there’s something that felt right about it,” MacLeod said in a phone interview. “I like the idea of the women and the wilderness, and Utah allows for that."
While spending time in Salt Lake City, MacLeod also visited Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
“I’m so glad we did,” MacLeod said. “It was wonderful.”
“Women in Jeopardy!” begins as two friends duck out into the kitchen during a dinner party to discuss their friend’s new boyfriend, whom they’ve just met.
“In some ways, it’s a fantasy of female friendship, I think,” MacLeod said of the trio of friends she created. “I wish I had friendships like that — my close friends don’t live near me. Honestly, the first scene of the play grew out of an actual kitchen conversation I had with my girlfriends after we met a new boyfriend and we were horrified. It was really the diving board for the play.”
MacLeod’s play follows the friends as they try to figure out what their friend sees in the creepy, socially awkward dentist with a penchant for antique dentist tools.
“Sometimes I model characters after people I know. … In some ways, the women are various aspects of me. But the creepy boyfriend, he’s modeled after our friend’s terrible boyfriend. We were just horrified,” MacLeod said, noting that their friendship survived the boyfriend.
Locally, MacLeod is best known for her previous PTC show, “Find and Sign,” and “House of Yes,” which was later turned into a movie that premiered at Sundance.
“Working on this show was a really interesting process,” she said. “It was commissioned by the Arden Theater (in Philadelphia) for their Writers’ Room. I lived in residence at the theater for four months and in that time you write the play, cast it, rehearse and perform a workshop production. It was wonderful motivation to write and get it done, and you get to see the results right away.”
MacLeod said the process allowed her to get feedback, including from Ed Sobel and Sean Daniels, who helped her with scene transitions.
“It’s easy to get lost in the trees when you’re writing a play, and having a ‘team’ helps you keep track of the forest and see the big picture,” she said.
MacLeod said the play provides a great opportunity for middle-aged actresses to act in "wonderful comedic roles."
“It’s a very funny play and I say that immodestly," she said. “But when I go see one of my plays, I watch the audience and not the play. And this play is just heaven for me to watch how they enjoy it — literally slapping their knees.”
Content advisory: According to information from the theater, "Women in Jeopardy!" contains occasional strong and sometimes crude language, including one instance of the F-word. Characters also share an occasional glass of wine and discuss sexual relations throughout.
If you go …
What: Pioneer Theatre Company's "Women in Jeopardy!"
Where: Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East
When: Feb. 10-25, times vary, matinees available
How much: $25-$44
Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."