Jeff Burleson, from left, Lois Sonnier Hart, Clint Gilbert, Deborah Brown and Lindsay Hayward in David Lindsay-Abaire’s hilarious “Ripcord.” Tim Long Circle Theatre
Jeff Burleson, from left, Lois Sonnier Hart, Clint Gilbert, Deborah Brown and Lindsay Hayward in David Lindsay-Abaire’s hilarious “Ripcord.” Tim Long Circle Theatre

Arts & Culture

Senior living has never been funnier, or more cutthroat, than in ‘Ripcord’

By Punch Shaw

Special to the Star-Telegram

August 22, 2017 11:56 AM


You might think of it as a geriatric version of “Mean Girls.”

But the characters in “Ripcord,” the comedy that hit the silk at Circle Theatre on Saturday, do not have the excuse of being teenagers. The vicious pranks pulled in this show are perpetrated by two very mature women who should know how to behave better.

You might hate them for their lack of civility — if they weren’t so darn funny.

This play by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist David Lindsay-Abaire takes place primarily in a senior living facility where the gloomy and bristly Abby (Lois Sonnier Hart) reluctantly shares a room with the cheerful and effervescent Marilyn (Deborah Brown). They are cared for by Scotty (Mark Quach), who serves as the women’s nurse, referee and mediator. It is a job few would care to have.

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The sparring between the two women reaches a new peak when it is decided that they will stage a contest to settle a couple of points of dispute. The rules are that if Abby is able to make the always smiling Marilyn angry, she wins and Marilyn has to move out of their shared room. But if Marilyn is able to scare her imperturbable roommate, then she gets Abby’s bed, which has a better, sunnier view than hers.

So those are the rules. But, in reality, there have been knife fights with more rules than these women follow as they plot against one another to improve their respective living conditions. We’re talking about things like drugging your opponent and then throwing her out of a plane here.

Yet, all through this treachery and mayhem, the audience is just about on the floor with laughter.

This show has a huge wind at its back before the curtain even goes up because of Lindsay-Abaire’s fine script, which just crackles with vitriol and hilarity. There are some elements of sentimentality in the story, but they are played with a light hand. And, in this production, you feel the text is realized to its absolute greatest potential by the brilliant direction of Robin Armstrong, whose well-known knack for comedy has never been keener than in this show.

She gets the most out of an excellent cast and adds some inspired touches to the staging, especially in her effective use of a few projections. Having to present a sky-diving scene in a basement theater does not even make Armstrong flinch.

The female leads are both outstanding. Brown plays her character’s cheerfulness like a fiddle. Hart took a little while to settle into her character on opening night, but after Abby had hurled a few well-aimed obscenities at anyone within range, she loosened up and the game was on. It is a rich pleasure to see such accomplished actresses playing off one another. And all of their supporting players answer the bell nicely.

About the only quibbles that could be made are that Hart looks too young and Brown seems too vital to be in an assisted living facility. But those are not really sins for which either can be blamed.

So if you are ready for some high-flying comedy with razor sharp writing and acting, clip onto the line and watch for the green light for this one. Your canopy is sure to open, but check your rear end when you land. You may have laughed it off on the way down.