Annette Bening, Playing 'The Female Of The Species'

Annette Bening i i

hide captionAnnette Bening, shown here in a 2009 file photo, stars in The Female of the Species, a controversial exploration of feminism.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Annette Bening

Annette Bening, shown here in a 2009 file photo, stars in The Female of the Species, a controversial exploration of feminism.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In Joanna Murray-Smith's latest play, The Female of the Species, Annette Bening plays the main character, feminist icon Margot Mason, who has written such literary gems as The Cerebral Vagina and Madame Ovary. While trying to write her latest book, though, Mason is interrupted by an irate student who claims Mason's work ruined her life.

The play, which won the Olivier Award on London's West End, has now opened at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Bening stars along Merritt Wever, David Arquette, Julian Sands and Josh Stamberg in the 90-minute comedic examination of feminism.

'Feminism Has Grown Up'

Some critics say the play's subject matter shouldn't be treated as a joke, though.

Bening disagrees and says that was Murray-Smith's intention in writing the play. "She believes that feminism has grown up," Bening says. "So it's OK to make jokes. It's OK to have fun with it and still make the arguments, which she does."

Although some reviews of Bening's performance have been favorable, critical response to the play has not.

"I don't read the reviews while I'm still doing a play," Bening says. "I learned that many years ago, but, yes, this is a play that should stir debate."

The play explores arguments both for and against feminism, but "everybody gets their say, and everybody gets their laughs," Bening says.

While some might be turned off by the topic, Bening believes most people will enjoy The Female of the Species because it pokes fun at everyone. "Men get to come in and have their say, and they get made fun of, too," Bening says. "It's a grown-up play with lots of ideas and lots of debate."

'Great Thrill' In Being On Stage

This turn on the stage is natural to Bening, who began her career in the theater. "Being on a stage was what I was trained to do," Bening says.

Well known for her film roles, Bening says transitioning between movies and the stage is a pleasure. She says she loves serving the story and the director of a film. "But the stage is a different beast," she says. "It's something that requires a kind of mental agility."

"You're out there, and there's nothing that concentrates the mind [more] than what we call 'going up,' meaning not knowing what you're supposed to be saying next," Bening says. "And there's a great thrill in that."

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