Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Sex Please, We're Sixty" a giggle fest for "people of a certain age"

review by Janet I. Martineau
A little blue pill just for menopausal women ...hmmmm.....and then it gets in the wrong hands.
That, in a nutshell, is the theme of the farcical “Sex Please, We’re Sixty,” which opened its run Friday night at Saginaw’s Pit and Balcony Community Theatre.
And it turned out to be a good giggle fest, especially for, well, “women of a certain age.”
Like all plays in the farcical genre, it seems to take forever to built up to the crazy ending that becomes an absolute riot of laughs. But, thankfully, a couple of the performances and some of the lines by playwrights Susan and Michael Parker make getting there fun.
It also is, frankly, nice to see a play written for “people of a certain age” and thus cast with mostly “people of a certain age” and proving that both of those sets of “people of a certain age” still have the chops to deliver great performances and have the ability to laugh at their own foibles.
Ditto director Linda Bush Rebney who also fits that age profile and delivers a nicely paced and good-looking show.
That said, we hesitate to discuss much further the plot line or the words in the play because that would ruin the sense of discovery that is so much of the fun.
Suffice it to say, the action takes places in a prim and proper bed and breakfast inn, where a southern bell, romance novelist and researcher come to stay one summer day or two. The inn is run by a prim and proper woman given to an obsession with time. She, in turn, has been courted for 20 years by a man who proposes to her every single day. And wandering in and out of the inn every few minutes, to check the registry for chicks, is a neighbor who is a dirty old man.
There are hints of the Bob Newhart inn-set television series as well as a little “Golden Girls” in there, and, of course, the play “No Sex Please, We’re British.”
The two standout performances are by Michael Olk as the dirty old man who courts all of the guests and Mary Arvidson as the tisk-tisk innkeeper trying to keep things under control.
Olk’s performace is a delight, He shuffles across the stage, hesitates and pauses, pops Viagra pills, battles a bad back, slips in and out of bedrooms nonstop, and even from the back row of the theater his eyes seem to twinkle. 
His character may be old but he ain’t dead in bed yet -- or so he seems to think but the women indicate otherwise. At the risk of dragging up an overexposed name these days, his character is what we imagine Charlie Sheen’s “Two and a Half Men” CHARACTER would be like in old age.
Olk NEVER drops that character, and manages to keep him lovable rather than sickening (as some dirty old men can be).
Arvidson is the contrast -- uptight, a prude, unconquerable in the romance department, but that persona slowly unravels when she reads passages of the new romance novel her guest is writing and falls under the spell of that little blue pill. Maybe.
Again, she never leaves character even as that character itself is changing. And her costumes and wig make her Mrs. Stancliff look nothing like Mary Arvidson.
Another performance to watch is that of Howard Deal, the uncertain scientist wooing the innkeeper. His character is kinda bland, and thus played that way, until the romance novelist starts giving him tips on better wooing words ... and especially until the play hits its peak comedy of errors. Then Deal just lights up the stage and generates the lion’s share of knowing laughter from women in the audience. He is wonderful.
Carla Gauthier is the struggling novelist, Tina Gutierrez the researcher and Lucy Oeming Malacos the southern belle. All do well, but their characters are more the straight people to the other three. Malacos nonetheless manages to elevate her character; the other two, perhaps, need just a little more oomph in their delivery.
But the fact the entire cast looks and feels comfortable, and stays true to their characters, is credit to director Rebney.
Bravo also to Susan Reid, Gary Reid and Mary Swift -- the scenic designer, set coordinator and scenic painter respectively. The set in GORGEOUS -- one of the best in recent Pit history. It is colorful, full of nice lines and angles, and looks every bit the part of a stylish inn.
And compliments also to sound engineer/operator Al Linberg whose work with the microphones made every line clear but natural sounding -- and even picked up the sound of water being poured into a glass.
“Sex Please, We’re Sixty” ain’t no classic theater but hey, it’s got some great laughs “for people of a certain age.”

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