Wendy MacLeod: Queen of Black Comedies
What do serial killers, incestual twins, and mentally ill teens all have in common? They’re all topics that Wendy MacLeod has written plays about. What’s even crazier is that most of her work will have you laughing, not crying. MacLeod has said that she likes to explore dark subject matter in an unexpectedly satirical way, and she’s actually had many successful attempts at this.
MacLeod was born in Rochester, New York and raised in Arlington, Virginia. She grew up wanting to be a writer, so she attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio because of the literary reputation of the “Kenyon Review.” It was there that she discovered her love of writing for the stage specifically. After earning her BA, she went on to earn an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. She’s actually back at Kenyon now as the James E. Michael Playwright-in-Residence, married to an art professor, and mothering two sons.
Her notable works include “The House of Yes” (see aforementioned incest and add a family wide Kennedy obsession). This 1990 play premiered in San Francisco at the Magic Theatre and actually became their second-longest running show. Seven years later, it was adapted into an award-winning Miramax film starring Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, and Tori Spelling.
Another, more recent play of MacLeod’s that’s been well received ever since its premiere in 2015 is “Women in Jeopardy!” She wrote this one while in Philadelphia after becoming the first person selected for The Writer’s Room residency at the Arden Theater. The play premiered at Geva Theater in Rochester and was selected for The Kilroys' List.
“Women in Jeopardy!” is much tamer than some of MacLeod’s other works, although it still has its dark moments. This play centers around a trio of divorced women in Salt Lake City. One of them, Liz, has a new boyfriend who’s weird to say the least. Liz’s friends become concerned while observing said boyfriend’s behaviors, like his romantic gesture of loaning Liz “The Silence of the Lambs.” What really piques their suspicion is when his attractive, female employee disappears without a trace.
Although the “midlife crisis” plotline can seem cliché at first glance, MacLeod’s writing brings a fresh perspective and lots of laughs. The addition of the possible serial killer certainly keeps it interesting, as well. What’s really captivating though are the well-rounded female characters who are delightfully self-aware stereotypes. Throw in two characters who look identical to each other, some murder mystery vibes, and all of the hijinks that come from people trying to play amateur detective, and you’ve got one interesting show!
Find out for yourselves! “Women in Jeopardy!” is playing at Shaker Bridge Theatre May 9th through the 26th. Get your tickets here.