Ode to the Wasp Woman: A Haunting Tribute to 1950s B-Movie Stars

Sean Young Shines in Off-Broadway Play Exploring the Mysterious Deaths of Hollywood Icons

In a captivating new play, Ode to the Wasp Woman, audiences are transported back to the glitz and glamour of 1950s Hollywood, delving into the last 48 hours of four B-movie stars who met tragic ends. Written by Rider McDowell and directed by McDowell himself, the play has been enthralling Off-Broadway audiences at the Actors Temple Theatre. With a stellar cast led by the talented Sean Young, Ode to the Wasp Woman offers a haunting tribute to these fallen stars, shedding light on their untimely deaths and the mysteries that still surround them.

A Glimpse into the Lives of Hollywood Icons

As the curtains rise, Ode to the Wasp Woman introduces us to the lives of four Hollywood icons: Susan Cabot, George Reeves, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, and Barbara Payton. Each of these actors, known for their roles in B-movies, met a tragic fate that has left a lasting mark on the industry. McDowell’s play takes us on a journey through their final hours, exploring the circumstances surrounding their deaths and the lingering questions that remain.

Sean Young’s Captivating Performance

At the heart of Ode to the Wasp Woman is Sean Young’s mesmerizing portrayal of Susan Cabot, one of Roger Corman’s muses. Cabot’s life was cut short in 1986 when she was killed by her own son in a case of matricide that continues to be debated to this day. Young brings depth and nuance to the character, capturing the essence of Cabot’s talent and the tragedy that befell her. Alongside Young, the ensemble cast, including Douglas Everett Davis, Payton Georgiana, Jonathan Hartman, Josh Alscher, Anna Telfer, David Wenzel, and Rita Rehn, deliver powerful performances, embodying the other slain stars and the people who played a part in their lives.

McDowell’s Inspiration and Vision

Rider McDowell, the playwright and director of Ode to the Wasp Woman, drew inspiration from his own childhood memories of television heroes from the 1960s and ’70s. The deaths of George Reeves, known for his portrayal of Superman, and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer from the beloved Our Gang comedy series, deeply affected McDowell. Combined with the tragic ends of Susan Cabot and Barbara Payton, McDowell was compelled to explore the lives and deaths of these fallen stars. Ode to the Wasp Woman serves as a tribute to their legacies, shedding light on the “who, what, where” of their deaths, if not the elusive “why.”

The Artistry Behind the Scenes

Ode to the Wasp Woman is a testament to the collaborative efforts of a talented creative team. Christian Fleming’s scenic design transports audiences to the glitzy world of 1950s Hollywood, while Maarten Cornelis’s lighting design adds depth and atmosphere to the production. Pearl Copalani’s company-wide costume design captures the essence of the era, with Montgomery Frazier creating stunning costumes specifically for Sean Young’s character. Bob “The Hammer” Franco’s sound design enhances the emotional impact of the play, immersing the audience in the world of these fallen stars. Matthew Palmer’s expertise as the production stage manager and Nilton Emilio as the assistant stage manager ensure a seamless and captivating experience for theatergoers. Casting by Amy Gossels and co-production by Adam Smith Jr. round out the team behind this remarkable production.


Ode to the Wasp Woman is a haunting and thought-provoking play that shines a spotlight on the lives and deaths of four B-movie stars from the 1950s. Through the powerful performances of Sean Young and the ensemble cast, audiences are transported to a bygone era, where the glitz and glamour of Hollywood coexist with tragedy and mystery. McDowell’s play serves as a tribute to these fallen icons, leaving audiences with lingering questions and a deeper appreciation for the complexities of fame and its consequences. As the final curtain falls, Ode to the Wasp Woman invites us to reflect on the lives and legacies of these Hollywood stars, forever immortalized on the silver screen.






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