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‘The Women’ focuses on the intricacies of frenemies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Its acid tongue wrapped in a cotton candy cloud, “The Women” takes a withering look at the behavior and manners of a group of gossipy “frenemies” in New York high society.

Clare Boothe Luce’s comedic claws will sharpen a cast of 20 women at the Adobe Theater beginning on Friday, Oct. 11. The play runs on weekends through Nov. 3.

Mary Haines is the perfect wife. She has it all: beauty, poise, brains, a generous, rich husband, a daughter and a circle of worldly, wealthy, wisecracking friends. But some of those friends can’t wait to gleefully shatter Mary’s blissful innocence when they discover that Stephen Haines is “stepping out” with gold-digging shop girl Crystal. Mary is devastated, her pride crumbling, her marriage on the brink. From that moment forward infidelity, divorce and shattered confidence spill into almost all of the members of Mary’s sisterhood.

“It’s all about something that’s not there – it’s the men in their lives,” director James Cady said.

The women are rich; they’re self-centered. Some are social climbers; some are saintly. The plot is accompanied by a number of fully drawn set pieces evoking the world of the very rich in 1939: the beauty salon, the exercise studio, the Sax Fifth Avenue fitting rooms, the clothes.

“It’s timely in the sense that human nature does not change,” Cady said. “Even though they’re all Park Avenue socialites, it’s a little like ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ because they all have servants. The servants gossip about the women; the women gossip about the servants.

“Luce knew her girlfriends; these are the people she hung with on the Upper East Side,” Cady continued, adding, “It dawns on one that the Depression did not affect everybody. Some people just went on as if it never happened. They had the money.”

Poor Mary. One of her friends exposes the betrayal, thinking it would save the marriage. Instead, Mary winds up in a Reno divorce. Soon four of the women are heading there due to a variety of infidelities.

“Mary’s revenge is the other part,” Cady said.

Directed by George Cukor, “The Women” was a ground-breaking movie when it opened in 1939. In 2007, “The Women” was chosen for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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