Pull the Ripcord for an Evening of Laughs and Revelations

If one is exceptionally lucky, one can capture lightning in a bottle. Rarely does that happen twice. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is one of those individuals with his Pulitzer Prize-winning production of Rabbit Hole. Regrettably, he does not approach the same level of excitement, drama or excellence with his play Ripcord, currently being performed at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. That is not to say Ripcord is a bad play or an unenjoyable evening at the theatre. Quite the contrary, Ripcord has a great deal to offer its audience.

Left to Right: Pat Brady, Carol Charniga, David-Quinones (Photo Credit: Curtain Call Theatre)

The story centers around two women in a senior living facility in New Jersey. The two women Abby and Marilyn are in many ways as different as the incredibly talented performers who inhabit their characters. They are thrown together in a room in the facility. Abby is a rather miserable, salty, too tightly wound, bitter woman, who feels as if the world has stomped on her and owes her. Marilyn, on the other hand, is happy-go-lucky, cheerful always smiling, and always talking. Abby has made it her mission to get Marilyn moved out as she has done with every previous roommate. Marilyn has made it her mission to get Abby to change. From here, the playwright sets up a series of events that will leave you laughing out loud consistently throughout the show. 

Abby is played by local theater veteran Pat Brady. Brady is a small thin woman, who is consistently sitting twisted up in herself, not wanting to let anyone in. Carol Charniga is gregarious, cuddly, and always smiling. Another area theatre stalwart it is wonderful to watch the two of them play against one another. Charniga and Brady have been ideally cast as polar opposites by Chris Foster. Foster manages to place them on the stage, with Charniga filling center stage whenever she is on and Brady in a small corner of the stage. The two women are absolutely a joy to watch their mastery of comedy, along with Foster’s superb direction, though completely opposite, play perfectly with one another.

Left to Right: Scott Wasser, Pat Brady, Lauren Taylor-Berkman, Carol Charniga, Robert Francis-Forgett (Photo Credit: Curtain Call Theatre)

The first act of the show is great fun, with the exception of an overly long haunted house scene that seems to do nothing for the show except slow down the momentum which has been built up. The second act appears to be from another play.  We suddenly see a darker side to both characters, sometimes cruel, sometimes vicious, and suddenly sad and almost pathetic. The acting keeps pace with the drama, and the laughs keep coming, but we are thrust much more into a world of reality than the first act would set us up for. In fact, the second act is much more entertaining and gives one an entirely different perspective of the characters and what the playwright is apparently trying to get to.

 Things in life are not as always as we would want those around us to believe.

Lindsay-Abaire seems to want to take us down a rabbit hole one more time. This time around it does not apparently work as well. At this point, Ripcord is not exactly certain what it wants to be.

Ripcord’s supporting cast David Quinones as Scotty, the Senior Citizen’s nurses aid is a wonderful foil for both women. His ability to change personalities depending upon who he is dealing with is great fun to watch. Robert Francis Forgett, Lauren Taylor Berkman, and Scott Wasser all do well filling out the remainder of the cast playing multiple roles. 

Kudos to Chris Foster for directing this play with a firm hand, keeping the show moving straight ahead when it could easily gone off its tracks. He knows when to let his leading ladies run with the comedy and when to reel them in with a deftness of talent that goes to both the performers’ and director’s ability.

As usual, Curtain Call shines on the technical side of things… Dale Conklin’s scenic design, Lily Fossner’s lighting, and Carsen Joenk’s sound all add to the creation of atmosphere style and feeling.

Ripcord will make you laugh, but ultimately will make you think… think about people, perceptions, and life. In the times we are living in, laughing for a few hours and forgetting everything around us is a good thing. 

Ripcord runs Thursday through Sunday, June 11. Tickets are $30. proof of vaccination and masks are required. For more information: www.curtaincalltheatre.com or call 518-877-7529.

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