FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, Footsteps Theatre Company and Cantadora Productions. The seven women gathered at Fefu’s country home are products of the most prestigious universities in America. They’re there to rehearse an educational fund-raising program, but mostly they just lounge around and discuss how difficult life is for women–particularly for Julia, who’s crippled by hallucinations and ultimately destroyed by her own sensitivity.

Maria Irene Fornes’s enigmatic Fefu and Her Friends may be read as a feminist or an antifeminist play, as social commentary, soap opera, or even slapstick comedy (at one point a water fight breaks out, and the women chase one another like a pack of giddy girls). The script supports all these interpretations, and the play’s 1935 setting (re-created with uncanny accuracy in this Cantadora/Footsteps production by designer Todd M. Reemtsma) gives the show a misty nostalgia: it’s like an all-female Love! Valour! Compassion!

Director Jennifer Evans Ward and her stellar cast–featuring such reliable actresses as Kate Martin and Sandra Storrer, as well as up-and-comers Laura Ruth and Kathrynne Ann Rosen–have opted for a contemplative approach full of nuances, smoldering gazes, and significant pauses. The result is an intellectually engaging if somewhat opaque evening in the company of characters so complex and curious that we long for a play to be written about each one.

–Mary Shen Barnidge