Claws Out - New Musical Explores Cougars
Watch out, boys. This "cougar" has claws....and brains, and heart, and a sense of humor.
"I think it’s an energetic yearning to embrace a more matriarchal system after a millennia of patriarchal dictation," says playwright, performer and sought-after "cougar" expert Donna Moore, in response to our request to analyze that popular term for younger men hooking up with older women.
Moore’s mature observation - more social anthropology than pop culture puff - is proof that wisdom comes with age...which, along with the skills a women builds from a few decades of sexual activity, just might be part of what drives junior towards a gal who’s just like the one that married dear old dad.
The fact that some cougar chasers are looking for both mom and mentor is just one of the ironies that put Moore on the path that ultimately led to her new Off-Broadway production.
Currently playing an open-ended run at St. Luke’s Theatre, "Cougar the Musical" follows three "divine but disillusioned" women who discover that drinking in the attention of young men is the elixir that leads to self-love and empowerment.
The trio, a cast of over-forty women, is joined onstage by one "multi-talented boy toy" who plays all the male roles. Together, they navigate the complexities of the cougar phenomenon in a way that, from early reviews, is light years ahead of the treatment it gets on that positively dreadful Courtney Cox sitcom.
Perhaps that’s because Moore’s musical took its sweet old time getting to the boards, having matured with age - just as its creator has evolved over the years.
"I’ve been working on the show for eight years," says Moore, "and it sort of happened in a surreptitious way."
When she was 42, Moore attended a party for a man who was turning 30. "They were all calling us cougars," she recalls. "I never heard that term before I was like what, it just struck me as odd."
At the time, I was doing stand-up comedy, so I began talking about how I felt about, at 42, being called a cougar. ’What do you call a man linked with a younger women,’ I asked. ’It’s called being a man.’ So at first, I felt this was a derogatory term, and somewhat diminishing of women...but it struck my funny bone."
Art reflects life
One week after that birthday party, Moore attended an after party for "SNL," and was chatted up by "a young man, the manager of the band that played the show." By the end of the night, Moore found herself back at the man’s shared sublet, downing beers as dawn broke. "It was a little uncomfortable," she says of the sexual tension. "He tried to kiss me, and I was like, ’I gotta go home.’ So I took a cab and left."
The horny stud didn’t get lucky that night, but Moore sure did. Before long, she had penned a song called "The Cougar."
Now a cougar in name and spirit, Moore (who has two daughters, currently 21 and 19), worked the number into her solo show "The Unbalancing Act"-which had a long run at the midtown cabaret space Don’t Tell Mama.
"The Cougar Song" attracted the attention of a producer and another industry person. "They said," she recalls, "if you wrote a whole show about that [cougars], we could get behind it. So I wrote a song called "Grandma Was a Cougar."
With a bit more material, "The Cougar Cabaret" was created-and at that point, "All of a sudden, I was being interviewed by national newspapers and magazines as a cougar expert. which I thought was so funny. They started asking me all these questions, and it hit me what the mission was: It’s time for women to step into their power and embrace the sacred feminine. It’s an honoring of our potential. With age, a woman can become much more comfortable with herself, much more allowing of her own pleasures."
More than funny
Through the act of connecting to this part of themselves, she asserts, "Women say ’yes’ to their innate intuition and wisdom." By knowing that they are "deserving to be pleasured, and to give pleasure, women release the shame that comes from [society telling us] ’You’ve gotta be the good girl. Don’t be too aggressive. Make sure people like you.’ As women get in touch with their own self worth, they allow themselves to live in their own truth. For some women, that translates in a sexual way."
So the essence of the younger man/older women dynamic is, Moore says (at least from the female perspective) "about full freedom of sexual expression. So as women step up into embracing their lives and their self-expression, I think there will be a sort of a corrective acceptance of that [the cougar dynamic]. It won’t be looked at as strange."
All of this certainly seems like solid philosophy-but that doesn’t mean that a trip to see "Cougar the Musical" will be like taking a graduate class.
Grinding blues, doo-wop and pop-plus hunky eye candy, are all employed as spoonfuls of sugar that make the intellectual content go down very easy indeed. From nail salon gossip to boudoir encounters to a romantic ballad sung to a vibrator, everything that happens in Moore’s "Cougar" is done in the service of stimulating audiences.
"To me," says Moore, "this show has a mission that’s about more than being funny. We want people to leave feeling better about their lives, to leave with a ’yes’ inside themselves."
"Cougar the Musical" is in an open-ended run, at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th Street). Wednesdays & Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays & Sundays at 2pm. 90 minutes.