Presented by Huntington Theatre Co.
By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Jessica Stone
Original music by Mark Bennett
Choreography by Misha Shields
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) Times are not good right now in America. It’s hard being a freedom loving, feminist, liberal during a reign of political terror. Thank goodness there’s escapist theatre that warms the heart and only lightly pings the brain. Ripcord at the Huntington Theatre is just such a show. It isn’t high art. It isn’t activist art. It is a reminder that none of us are free until we’re all free.
It’s a modern update of The Odd Couple for the ladies*. Abby (a spiky but likable Nancy E. Carroll) is a curmudgeonly introvert who just wants her space. Marilyn (Annie Golden oozing manipulative innocence) is the happy-go-lucky extrovert that refuses to give it to her. They make a bet: if Abby can make Marilyn angry; Marilyn will move out. If Marilyn can make Abby scared, Abby stays and gets the bed by the window. There are no rules except building staff, especially their attendant Scotty (Ugo Chukwu has excellent timing), can know. Laura Latreille, Richard Prioleau, and Eric T. Miller round out the cast.
The cast is great. Carroll and Golden take turns stealing scenes from each other with zingy one-liners and hilarious physical gags. Their portrayals of real, hurting women are credible and inspirational. Lindsay-Abaire wrote the show but these ladies deserve the credit for making it successfully their own.
In particular, the staging of the ensemble confrontation scene towards the end of the show was particularly effective. The cast had the audience in its hands. I won’t spoiler it, but there is a huge reveal. It is played so well that the tears of my seat neighbors led immediately to laughter. It was a beautiful moment.
The design elements are so well-suited to the show that they seamlessly blend into the production. Tobin Ost’s set, Mark Bennett’s compositions, and Lucy Mackinnon’s projection believably transport the cast all over. The haunted house is particularly spoopy. Gabriel Berry’s nipple enhancements for the clown were spoopiest of all.
This is a comedic play that faces serious issues such as abandonment, domestic and drug abuse. It sometimes does so in unfunny, illegal ways. It could be appropriate for mature children who understand the difference between pretend and real. Abby and Marilyn becomes good friends by the end of the show, but they do things to each other that good friends do not, should not do.
It should be noted that Lindsay-Abaire doesn’t specify race for the roles of Scotty and son-in-law Derek (Prioleau). Huntington chose to cast black actors because they could. Good for them. Too bad they aren’t local.
Ripcord is a show that allows its audience to sit back and enjoy the actions onstage. Regardless of what’s going on in the real world, or how the sitting President is recklessly bastardizing the Constitution to impress his mentor, Ripcord will let you forget for a moment. People are still people. People will always need each other in order to heal and try again. Please, try to do the same for yourself.
*Funny story: Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple was originally written for two women.
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.
Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD
TCG has a list of things you can do to help.
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