WOMEN WITHOUT MEN and Palm Restaurant

"Tragedy is at least interesting."
In the all-women's faculty lounge at an exclusive Protestant girls’ boarding school in Dublin, tests are scored and passive-aggressive comments traded. The 1938 Hazel Ellis play, Women Without Men, is a nascent Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with everyone vying for most popular teacher and insisting they never do. 

“The more unpopular you make yourself with the girls, the more the teachers will like you,” says the Latin teacher, Miss Strong, who always removes herself from conflict, crisply played by Mary Bacon.

Aedin Moloney (the true Irishwoman among these fine actresses) is Miss Willoughby, and what she says is always shocking one way or another. This quietly outrageous character is as close as things come to being campy fun. Another breath of fresh air is the crusty French teacher, Mademoiselle Vernier, played with exquisite hauteur by Dee Pelletier (who is French Canadian). We’d like to try one of those sugar cookies freshly baked by Mademoiselle Vernier. The formidable history teacher, played sympathetically by Kellie Overbey, is at work at her masterpiece and about to come undone.

Playwright Hazel Ellis (1909-1992)
When you look at the eight-by-ten photos of these actresses in the lobby, it’s impossible to match them to their Miss Gooch roles. The ever-changing 1920s conservative tweeds and bouffant wigs keep the eleven actresses mostly hidden. (Costumes Martha Hally, wigs Robert-Charles Vallance.)

Great ensemble acting, including the three girl students (Shannon Harrington, Alexa Shae Niziak and Beatrice Tulchin) whose mischief is severely punished. Someone is always getting punished and shamed, but the dialogue is ever witty. As the Latin teacher puts it, “Tragedy is at least interesting. It’s better than sheer dreariness.”

In Women Without Men men or their absence is never mentioned. The play premiered nearly eighty years ago in Dublin, one of two plays that survive by Dubliner Hazel Ellis (1909-1992). (The other is Portrait in Marble, about Lord Byron.) There isn't even a wiki page for Ellis. The Mint Theater Company has rescued another playwright from oblivion. 

The Palm West is the offshoot of the one on the East Side, where cartoonists could pay for their meals by leaving drawings on the walls. Frescos here includes restaurant guests Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, James Brown (who autographed his picture) and other guests you might not recognize. Theatregoers who lunch at Palm and attend a matinee are walking advertisements, carrying leftovers in shopping bags with Palm logos.
"Are you sure they call this a Palm Sundae?"

Last time at the Palm we highlighted the attractive signature salad, with blue cheese and bacon, served in a carved, whole iceberg lettuce bowl. It's still there, with the delicious garlic-vinaigrette and other big salads including a chopped salad with sliced steak. Red meat is their specialty, and steak sandwiches, burgers and hand-cut French fries. We needed our experienced waitress, Jill, to walk us through the vast menu for the Power Lunch prix fixe, just $25, with three courses and a vegetable side thrown in. You almost won't have room for chocolate cake at the end, but can always carry it home in a Palm bag.