By Daniel Skora
A grandma can certainly be embarrassing. She’ll smother you with hugs no matter what your age. She’ll show friends and relatives those pictures she took of you in your birthday suit on your first birthday. And she’ll tell your spouse about that loser you dated in high school. But even Grandma Sylvia is exceeding the boundaries of embarrassing geriatric behavior in “Nana’s Naughty Knickers”, the current presentation of Meadow Brook Theatre.
The comedy, by Katherine DiSavino, is about an enterprising senior citizen who makes and sells the kind of unmentionables usually found at Victoria’s Secret. Sylvia Charles (Mary Robin Roth) lives in a respectable New York apartment building where the former tenant just happened to be a bootlegger. To hide his criminal enterprise, he had the place outfitted with secret closets and hidden cabinets. Sylvia, who worked for Maidenform and missed the business when she retired, began making and selling provocative lingerie to her senior citizen friends. She calls her company Salacious Slips, Etc. and keeps her creations in those hidden places only to be shown when her customers come by.
Sylvia has no way of knowing that the day we meet her when the play opens will be a momentous one for her and her business. For one thing, her granddaughter Bridget (Franny Kromminga) will be coming by to spend her summer vacation between semesters at college. Her neighbor Vera (Trudy Mason) will finally get really suspicious about what her friend has been so secretively up to. Officer Tom (Dale White) is going to be coming by a lot because he not only takes a fancy to Bridget but keeps reminding her to move her double-parked car. Mr. Schmidt, the apartment’s owner (Phil Powers) is going to decide it’s time to break her controlled rent agreement because of all those strange people coming by Sylvia’s apartment. And perhaps the biggest problem of all occurs when the delivery of lingerie meant for Saucy Slips gets mixed up with the one for the similarly named Saucy Lips, and it’s boxes full of sex toys that get delivered instead.
As funny as the first act is, what with Sylvia convincing Bridget and Vera to be models for her biggest customer who’s coming by to look through the merchandise, the second act explodes with hilarity when Ms. Heather VanPree from Saucy Lips (Cheryl Turski) comes by to see about swapping out the misdelivered packages. If ever there was a perfect target audience for all those kinky gadgets, Heather may be the one.
In a show where every character elicits their fair share of laughs, two stand out. Turski draws the most bodacious character, a leather-clad, gum chewing amazon. And Phil Powers draws big laughs without saying a word: the expressions and guttered sounds he makes when that last Salacious Slips customer turns out to be someone near and dear to him are comic genius.
Others in the show include Debbie Williams as Clair and Brendan Lindberg and Sara Kmiec as a pair of delivery persons. The show is directed by Travis Walter, once again providing one of his signature mini-extravaganzas during the curtain call. Meadow Brook’s usual good-as-Broadway set comes courtesy of designer Brian Kessler. Others in the production crew consist of Corey Collins (costumes), Reid G. Johnson (lighting), Michael Duncan (sound), Debbie Williams (choreography), and Terry W. Carpenter (stage manager, assisted by Sarah Lin Warren).
Make sure to bring your funny bone when you come to the show. It’s truly a laugh fest, sexy and entertaining from start to finish. If you don’t think you have one, come anyway. We’re all born with one and “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” is sure to reactivate yours. The show runs through February 4th. Tickets are available by calling the Meadow Brook box office at 1.248.377.3300 or going online at www.ticketmaster.com. Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in the city of Rochester.