The Women How can you resist a play that credits a "catfight coordinator"? And could that play be any other than Clare Boothe Luce's bitch-fest from 1936? There's none like it in the comedy canon; it's as unique as its formidable playwright, with a huge cast and not a male in sight. These married ladies from Park Avenue hold onto their husbands and/or lovers with both hands. They run the world from their living rooms, fitting rooms, powder rooms and bathtubs. This is upper-crust female power — with sex as constant warfare or irritant — and when nice and proper Mary Haines gets the marital stuffing knocked out of her (she learns of her husband's affair through a blabbermouth manicurist), it takes her until the end of the play to figure out how to fight for her man. Her friends are an assortment of double dealers, backbiters and blasé do-nothings, and when they're all together, it's a marvelous, sharp-tongued conversation you wouldn't want to join without at least two cocktails in hand. The play's amazingly deft and witty, and laugh-out-loud funny. It's rich in scenes, and if the changes at Theatre Southwest aren't as speedy as they could be, the musical interludes never disappoint. It's wonderful to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Ginger Rogers and Vaughn Monroe (even if he didn't record "There I Said It Again" for another decade). The ladies of the cast are nice and stylized, some looking like they stepped nimbly right out from the covers of Vanity Fair (Malinda Beckham, Pam Green, Emily Colvin, Kathy Drum). Rebecca Seabrook, as sweet but done-wrong Mary, grows into the role as she becomes more feisty; Kelly Walker, as hard-hearted Crystal, luxuriates in her home-wrecking; and Melody Gray, in the juicy role of Sylvia Fowler, brings a nice spider's touch to the mother of all bitches. As for that catfight, it's a beaut. Through March 13. 8944-A Clarkcrest, 713-661-9505. — DLG

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