Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

THE NEW YORKER recently quoted Tony Kushner (“Angels in America” and “Caroline, or Change”) estimating that an audience’s collective I.Q. goes up about twenty-five points while watching a play.

Assuming Kushner’s prediction is accurate, audiences attending Off Broadway West Theatre Company’s current presentation of INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM should swap some highbrow sophistries, savvy notions, lucrative stock tips and illuminating profundities during intermission and while filing out after the final curtain.

Richard Harder, a purist and master stage artist, deftly directs this delightful, sepia toned, rendering of John Orlock’s most successful comedic melodrama.

Characters: Florence and Viola Becker, two sisters rapidly approaching middle age, begin to hear biological alarm clocks clanging like London’s Big Ben; in a desperate bid to bring men, matrimony and maternity into their lives, they respond to mailer cataloguing eligible gentlemen.

Imagine the technology and pickings of Craig’s List al la 1902 Louisville.

Rather than contacting two gentlemen, they link up with two rogues: ludicrous con artists: Winfield Davis and Amos Robbilet.

Once admitted to the sister’s parlor, Davis and Robbilet: a pair of hack charlatans, claiming to hail from the International Institute of Science and Populism, begin to work their conspicuously transparent scam on the spinsters.

Shouldn’t “Populism” alone have set of their smoke alarms?

Using a rich mixture of pomposity, bluster and buffoonery, Davis and Robbilet take advantage of Florence and Viola’s willingness to put false hopes and suspension of disbelief ahead of common sense, good judgment and conservative Presbyterian politics.

Paul Stout is marvelous as the flimflam artist Winfield Davis: every aspect of his countenance, bearing and speech is guaranteed to set off your smoke alarm and BS sensors.

Kim Saunders is stunning as Viola Becker; Kim is able to exude a brand of fragile vulnerability and desperation akin to Tennessee Williams’ Laura in the Glass Menagerie.

Great costuming by Sylvia Kratins and a stunning set design by Bert van Aalsburg really nail down the period, material circumstances and class consciousness of Viola and Florence.

Richard Harder shows an exacting attention to detail rarely evidenced in contemporary theater: this is a piece of art that should not be missed.

For tickets, call the box office at 800-838-3006 or visit