FRINGE 2017: 'Zelda and Hadley: Together at Last'

Zelda and Hadley have been cheated and mistreated by their husbands — and they’re over it.

“Thank god — I thought I was going to have to do this sober,” shouts Hadley, pouring herself a drink. “A toast!” quips Zelda. “To our husbands and our boyfriends. May they never meet.”

This sets the tone for Zelda and Hadley: Together at Last from E Cubed Productions and writer/director Eileen Earnest. Elizabeth Chinn Malloy plays Hadley Richardson, ex-wife of the legendary Ernest Hemingway. Malloy’s Richardson is wry, keeping her chin up and her wrist raised. As quippy as she is, she is still the straightedge compared to Alison Rampa’s Zelda Fitzgerald, famed wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame. She bursts into the room with the demeanor of somebody’s woke kid sister. 

Zelda and Hadley have been cheated and mistreated by their husbands — and they’re over it. They have a stiff drink, a slinky dress and, for whatever reason, a radio show, which they’re using to get some revenge on the philanderers. 

This is when the audience comes in, invited to choose between Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or The Great Gatsby or Hemingway’s The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. The Ex-Wives Club then tackles the story in the style of a radio drama, complete with Foley sound effects and a little extra emphasis on the infidelity, abuse and sexism throughout. 

At the opening performance, the audience chose Francis Macomber, Hemingway’s story about an unhappy couple on a safari. (Well, one of his several such stories.) Malloy and Rampa gave it everything they had, vamping and pulling faces, slide whistling and spit-taking. One moment Rampa is imitating a gazelle, the next she is using a full-on Huckleberry Hound voice.

Therein lies the only problem with Zelda and Hadley: These two actresses are so naturally engaging that the moment they turn their eyes down to read their scripts, the energy zips out of the room faster than you can say “Prohibition.” The show’s setup and send-off — scripted moments, but funny as hell — made me wish they had thrown the heavy literature to the side and let Zelda and Hadley tell the stories in their own words. 

All these women want to do is outshine their husbands’ work. I say we let them.


The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 40-plus early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.

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