Presented by Theatre@First’s FirstWorks
by Andrea Aptecker
directed by Dave Policar
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Somerville, MA) FirstWorks is Theatre@First’s initiative to support local playwrights as they write new plays. The intent of this program is to provide constructive feedback by experienced directors and actors to playwrights on a play submitted for this purpose. After a workshopping period, a staged reading is performed for the Theatre@First community at large. The most recent subject of the FirstWorks program is Andrea Aptecker’s You’re Killing Me Already! (YKMA!).
YKMA! is a platonic love story between middle-aging best friends Sylvia (Andrea Aptecker) and Gertie (Gilly Rosenthol) are writing a skit for the Jewish senior village talent night. The gals are interrupted by sexy gossip, Roberta (Bobbi Woodward), who makes it her mission to noodle her way into a rich part in the skit. Together, the women discuss mature sexuality, disability and various coping mechanisms. The cast is completed by Doug Miller, John Day, and Jason Merrill as the young gentleman caller.
This reading was a hoot! To be transparent, Aptecker is a friend of mine with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage. Our fond acquaintance convinced me to attend the reading, but, as anyone with friends in the biz knows, friendship doesn’t immediately translate into quality theatre. The July 28th performance itself was pleasantly silly on its own merit.
Aptecker’s honest writing is subtly serious. It incorporates concrete one-liners like the ones that made Barbara Streisand famous. What’s more, this funny show confronts the agism, sexism and classism people of a certain age face on a regular basis.
These women aren’t stereotypes. Despite having passed the age that society deems fuckable, Gertie and Sylvia flirt and ponder physical intimacy in ways that imply that it hasn’t been so long since they had a good tumble. It’s refreshing to see a show in which a mature woman’s sexuality is a natural part of the plot and not the punchline of a joke.
With all its flare, this new script requires some more revision: It is not made immediately clear to the audience where and when our characters are. Some stage directions were read aloud. These details were not. Aptecker gives us two gorgeous female characters whom we love immediately. She doesn’t do this for the rest of the players. It would be good to know why we should want our heroines to date any of the available bachelors in the community. Lastly, the skit Sylvia and Gertie write, a play within a play, ends abruptly during its second act performance. We have an introduction by Helga but no wrap-up or simulated applause. Like in any performance, even an audience within an audience deserves indication that the play within a play has concluded.
The pacing by director Policar is steady. The dialogue keeps its own rhythm. The semi-staging was at times hokey (such as the drunk dancing scene which was more awkward than drunk) but generally worked. The aforementioned skit was twee but maintained an undeniable charm.
We demand more from those we love the best. At its heart, You’re Killing Me Already! is about two women secure in their friendship even if the rest of their lives are going to pot. It’s a funny show with as much good-natured vitriol as it does heart. With just a little bit more care, this show will be ready for a full production.