It's cliché: Women at midlife suffer hot flashes; men at midlife buy hot cars. So what happens to a 53-year-old butch lesbian grandmother entering menopause? In playwright Peggy Shaw's case, she puts on a double-breasted suit and suspenders, passes for a 35-year-old man and lets loose the tiger within.
The result is Menopausal Gentleman, Shaw's Obie-Award-winning solo performance about aging and sexuality--a hilarious and intimate rage against the dying of her eggs.
"They say that women have a certain number of eggs they use up in a lifetime. I did it!" she exclaims with something like triumph.
There's not much to be said for aging gracefully in Shaw's monologue, part stand-up routine, part cabaret act. She growls and prowls across the stage, mopping her brow with a handkerchief, slinking into the audience for a lounge-lizardy version of "My Way."
"I'm made out of material that's a little worse for wear," Shaw says at one point. Her body is betraying her. She's drying out, one bucketful of sweat at a time. She arranges objects in her home to keep from pacing. Afflicted with insomnia, she tries to coax her body to sleep piece by piece, screaming at her restless brain to hear the soothing ocean rhythm.
"I feel like a middle-aged guy who wears his pants too tight and his shirts too loud," Shaw says, and like a middle-aged guy, she longs for love and intimacy (presumably with a twentysomething hottie, just like a man). "So many women, so little time."
It's funny stuff, and touching to boot. If you're 19, you may not get it. If you can see the crest of the hill you're about to slide down--if you're, say, 40--then you will, straight or gay, man or woman.