Elkhart Civic Theatre opened a production Friday evening that puts a satiric spin on every aging adults private fear — life in an assisted living facility.
It is titled “Ripcord” and is by David Lindsay-Abaire, one of the best-known writers of dark comedies in today’s theater, rather a Neil Simon with a definite touch of Stephen King.
The setting, as noted, is a facility, specifically the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility in suburban New Jersey, which offers everything from assisted living to full medical care or “downstairs” as the residents refer to it.
Life “upstairs” is quite convenient for its inhabitants, something of which like Abby Binder (Jenny DeDario) seem unable or unwilling to appreciate or are determined to ignore everything, including the rules.. Complaining seems to be a regular part of Abby’s life and the fact that new roommate, Marilyn Dunne (Stacey Nickel). seems absolutely delighted with her shared surroundings is a renewed source of irritation to her,
Abby wants a private room and takes adventage of the fact that a woman on the first floor has died leaving a vacancy. She uses a variety of ruses to induce Marilyn to take the available room but to no avail. Marilyn is happy where she is and determined to stay there.
Then Abby ups her game.
She invites Marilyn to participate in a “winner takes all” competition (“all” being the bed by the window and Abby’s departure).
The Challenge: Abby must be really frightened while Marilyn must get really angry. The loser will vacate the room.
In spite of warnings from Scotty (Cameron Ponce), the medical orderly with whom Abby has formed a friendship, and Marilyn’s daughter Colleen (Stephanie Yoder) and son-in-law Derek (Patrick Farran), Marilyn take Abby’s challenge.
Among others, the ensuing games include a Halloween visit to a “haunted house” complete with an electric chair; an in-house “hanging”; a freefall from a skydivers plane; and filling a Sudoku book with letters.
The success and/or failure of these “games” is solely up to the participants and DeDario and Nickel give it their all. Most seem to appeal to that part of everyone in which we would happily participate if social mores did not forbid.
As the grand “instigators,” DeDario is almost too together at all times, while Nickel is overly delighted with everything. She completely igores her roommates obvious disliken and continues every little trait which is bound to stretch Abby’s already too stretched nerve to the breaking point. And she does it with definite delight. This in spite of the fact that both seem way too young to already be in assisted living.
Those who try to cancel the bet — Scotty, Colleen and Derek — find their plea fall on deaf ears, so. . . . if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,
One of the highlights of “Ripcord” is the performance by Ponce, the health aide who spends most of his time keeping Abby in check. That he does so with obvious affection warms the play and makes taking the move to assisted living less than a death-defying dive.
When the smoke clears here, everyone is — just about as unhappy as when they started and Marilyn resorts to another way to achieve harmony.
Aiding along the way to the final solution is Keith Sarber as Lewis a man unwelcome from Abby’s past, plus other “creatures” depending upon the requirements of the current “game.”
Fortunately, they have a solid background for most of their “games” in the set designed by John Shoup. It filled most of the “at home” necessities and allows for the “outside” scenes to be played at a little less than 30,000 feet. The widespread demands of the Lindsay-Abaire script required some “out-of-the-box” solutions which were found by director Demaree Dufour-Noneman and assistant director Sarah Brubaker, who also designed and operated the lights.
There is much to laugh at in”Ripcord,” but underneath, especially for the senior members of the audience, there is a sobering message on what comes next when “home” has a different meaning.
‘RIPCORD” plays Friday through Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on IN120 in downtown Bristol. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 848-4114 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. weekdaysor visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.com.