By Daniel Skora
Putting two feisty senior citizens together in the same room at an assisted living facility can often be as ill-advised as trying to stuff two alley cats into a potato sack. But that’s sort of what happens when Abby and Marilyn find themselves sharing living quarters in playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s comedy “Ripcord”, currently being presented by the Tipping Point Theatre.
Abby (Ruth Crawford) has pretty much had her double-bed room at Bristol Senior Living all to herself for years. Not that she hasn’t had any roommates. It’s just that if anyone can make a bright sunny day turn stormy faster than a day of Michigan weather, it’s Abby, and those who find themselves exposed to her surly disposition quickly ask to be transferred to another room.
But along comes Marilyn (Susan Craves), who at play’s beginning has not only gone three weeks “in the ring” with Abby, but has tried by example to show her the benefits of living on the sunny side. When it becomes apparent that neither will be able to tolerate the other for any length of time, a challenge is issued and agreed to by both women: if Abby can make the even-tempered Marilyn angry before Marilyn can make the fearless Abby become frightened, then Marilyn must move to another room; and the reward for Marilyn if Abby becomes frightened before she becomes angry is getting Abby’s bed near the window with a great view of the park.
What follows is a series of practical jokes in which each tries to win the bet by cracking the resolve of the other. And therein lays the crux of the play’s humor. But try as they may, Marilyn doesn’t get angry and Abby shows no fear. But a bet is a bet, and the contest must go on. If it were just the two old ladies having a little disagreement, “Ripcord” might merely end up being be a nice, witty comedy. But playwright Lindsay-Abaire has stacked the deck with some supporting characters that are out to cause mayhem.
Scotty (Dez Walker) is an orderly who works at the home serving meals to the residents and dispensing medications. He’s generally soft-spoken and amenable, but he’s also a part-time actor. When he convinces both Abby and Marilyn to buy a ticket to the Haunted Halloween House where he’s appearing, you realize that this comedy has wings to spread. And when daughter Colleen (Vanessa Sawson) and her husband Derek (Jason Bowen) arrive, the stakes rise to near-sadistic levels. Also in the play is Patrick Loos, who makes a late second act appearance as Ben, Abby’s alienated son.
“Ripcord” is rip-roaringly funny entertainment. Not only is the premise of a couple of women engaged in a geriatric cat fight of wills amusing by itself, the show is loaded with unexpected attempts at one-upmanship and hilarious oddball sketches. It features a tried and true cast picked from the best of local talent. The Halloween sketch turns out to be a hilarious surprise, and Sawson, who has a way of chewing up the stage with her million dollar smile and bubbly enthusiasm even when she’s not a principal in the play, this time around adds a pair of devilish eyes to her character in the scene that gives the show its title. Treat yourself to a couple hours of unmitigated fun. “Ripcord” is a side splitter that will not disappoint.
The show is directed by James Kuhl. Set design and projections are by Monika Essen. Costume design is by Shelby Newport, assisted by Jarrett Collins. Lighting is by Rachel Nardecchia, sound by Sonja Marquis. Properties come courtesy of Kellie Dugan and stage manager is Tracy Spada, assisted by Rebecca Godwin.
“Ripcord” runs through April 22nd. Tickets are available online at www.tippingpointtheatre.com or by visiting or calling the theatre’s box office at 1.248.347.0003 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Mon. through Fri., or 90 minutes prior to all performances, based on availability. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville.