Vol. 17, No. 11 – Feb 21 – Mar 5, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Santa Paula Lets it Rip!

Santa Paula Theater Center has opened its 2024 season of all comedies with Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Taylor Kasch, the play takes place in Bristol Place, a senior living facility. If you have had any contact with people in such a setting, you will immediately see the humor and the pathos in familiar situations.

Abby (Cynthia Killion) has been living at the facility for some time and is quite set in her ways and preferences. For reasons that later become apparent, she has trouble making peace with having to have a roommate. Marilyn (Sindy McKay) is the newest assignee to the second bed in Abby’s domain. Abby’s grumpy, pessimistic nature clashes with Marilyn’s continually sunshine-esque countenance. The two are as different as oil and water.

Scott Blanchard plays the role of Scotty, the incredibly patient attendant, who tries to placate the two women, and still maintain facility standards.

The ladies eventually agree to disagree and make a bet of sorts. Marilyn attempts to get a smile out of Abby to “win” the right to stay in the room and move into the bed by the window. At the same time, Abby asserts that she can make Marilyn lose her cool, thus maintaining her coveted view and possibly gaining the room all to herself. It is a battle of wits and actions as the two try their best to force each other to concede. They both go to extraordinary lengths to gain the upper hand, to the utter exasperation of Scotty and others.

Ron Feltner and Karen Denny embody the roles of Derek and Colleen, Marilyn’s son-in-law and daughter, who assist in some of the shenanigans until they have just had enough and beg them to call a truce. Brooks Hope makes an appearance as Abby’s estranged son, adding another insight into her deeply rooted downer demeanor.

The play certainly has many moments of humor as the two ladies grapple with much more than the often-frustrating challenges of aging. There are also sentimental moments and realities of facility living that cause one to evaluate one’s own outlook.

The SPTC cast is a solid blend of talent and proficiency. However, I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps the material might be more humorous to persons with no personal contact with facility living. Because some of the irritations and complaints are all too real (personal experience with facility settings), I found it challenging to sympathize with both leading characters at times. Abby seemed to be not just grumpy, but mean, which did not win her any empathy points. The relentless positivity of McKay’s Marilyn was wearing as well.

There are countless areas of daily humor when dealing with foibles of the elderly. They can be inadvertently funny in mundane situations. Apparently, the author felt being outrageous in how the two ladies try to one-up each other would be funnier. I agree to disagree, and all bets are off.

Ripcord continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through March 3, 2024. www.santapaulatheatercenter.org

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