Ladies and gentlemen! This is it. The battle for the heavyweight championship of the room. In the house right corner, wearing the muted colors, she is known as the Brooding Brawler. . Abby!!!! Her opponent, fighting out of house left, wearing the light, bright colors, she is called Sinfully Sweet. . .Marilyn!!! And now. . .LET’S GET READY TO RIPCORD!!!!!!!! at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord tells the story of two senior home roommates who mix about as well as oil and water. Curmudgeonly Abby is used to having the room to herself and cannot stand her new perky roommate, Marilyn. When Marilyn claims never to get angry and Abby claims never to get scared, the two ladies make a bet. If Abby angers Marilyn, then Marilyn will move to a different room. If Marilyn scares Abby, she gets Abby’s bed by the window. The result is an escalating war of pranks between the two women as they pull out all the stops to win the bet.
Lindsay-Abaire has written a clever script reminiscent of The Odd Couple with the exception that the two main characters are not friends, giving their interactions a bit more of an edge. The script moves quite fast and is seasoned with hot zingers, sautéed with some well placed over the top moments, has a dash of drama and sensitivity, but has a peculiar palate cleanser of an ending.
Kimberly Faith Hickman has gathered a gaggle of comedic talent which she leads to solid and uproarious performances. Ms Hickman has mastery of the beats as she knows when to let her performers go huge, be normal, or pluck the heartstrings. The staging of the show is quite strong as, even in the slower moments, there is always a bit of movement from the actors to keep the scenes animated.
Three character actors playing multiple roles support the action of the play, but each also has a particular role that allows them their best moment in the spotlight. Matt Tarr’s towering presence and rich voice serve him best as a zombie butler in a haunted house. Kaitlyn McClincy serves up some laughs as Marilyn’s somewhat devious daughter who gleefully assists her mother in winning the bet. Kevin Goshorn shines in the show’s most poignant scene as the estranged, recovering addict son of Abby who visits her for the first time in years.
For a debut performance, Sahil Khullar is quite capable in the role of Scotty, the aide at the senior living center. Khullar definitely has the personality for the kindly Scotty who is implied to be a struggling actor. He also has a good instinct for timing, though his gestures need to be a bit more economical and precise.
But this show does indeed rest on the shoulders of its leading ladies. Rest assured that Charleen Willoughby and Judy Radcliff are more than up to the task as the pair deliver gutbusting performances and have a chemistry and repartee bordering on the symbiotic.
Charleen Willoughby is a bitter delight as Abby. Ms Willoughby well communicates Abby’s cynicism with a stony, stoic expression and bearing that says, “Just let me read and leave me alone”. She always has a quiet sense of mourning about her, lamenting the things she either lost or never had. Despite this downer description, Ms Willoughby does make this stick in the mud quite entertaining as her sense of delivery always makes Abby’s retorts and put-downs funny. Ms Willoughby also allows Abby’s long buried decent heart peek out from time to time with her love of her plants and the wistfulness of wanting grandchildren.
Judy Radcliff is a darling scream as Marilyn. Ms Radcliff makes Marilyn so sweet and sunshiney that one could probably spit in her face and she would laugh it off. Ms Radcliff brings an incredible sense of fun and kindness to the chatty Marilyn who just wants to bring a little brightness to the days of others. But a bit of orneriness lies beneath the sweetness as Marilyn dreams up the more dangerous pranks played in her war of oneupmanshp with Abby and the fact that she does it with a smile on her face makes it all the funnier.
Paul Pape has designed a fluid, open set bordered by ropes that easily transforms into the bedroom at the senior living facility to an airplane and to the airiness of a haunted house and the outside. Jim Othuse’s lights are some of the best I’ve seen in a Playhouse show as they really help define the scenes with the eerie greens and reds of the haunted house to the shadows of trees and sunlight outside of Abby’s window. John Gibilisco delivers on sound once again, especially with an impressive propeller sound effect in the skydiving scene. Amanda Fehlner’s costumes well define the personalities of the leading ladies with Marilyn’s bright, pretty dresses and Abby’s muted, sedate pantsuits. I also was quite pleased with the original score composed by Timothy Vallier.
There were a few blips in this preview night performance. Actors broke character on a few occasions with some of the jokes. There also seemed to be a bit of a dead spot on house left as microphones didn’t seem to work quite as well there as they did on house right. But these are easily fixable items.
I also thought the leading ladies were a little young to be in a senior living facility, but I also recognize the tough balancing act as I’m not certain older ladies would have been capable of handling the needed physicality for the roles.
This show has all the right ingredients for a most amusing night of theatre. It’s got laughs. It’s got heart. It’s got sensitivity. Get a ringside seat and watch the comedy brawl to win it all.
Ripcord plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Jan 19-Feb 11. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students. For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com. A little discretion is advised due to some coarse language and inappropriate gestures. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.