In “Ripcord” at the Omaha Community Playhouse, cranky Abby (Charleen Willoughby) is upset that her retirement home stuck her with a roommate, the upbeat Marilyn (Judy Radcliff ). The two make a bet in which the first to outprank the other gets her housing arrangement demands met.
While Abby does swear a bit, this isn’t an “outrageous granny” show. The characters and even the pranks are a bit too grounded and believable to add too much humor. Add in that these actresses are at least 20 years from moving into a retirement community themselves and the show becomes a hard sell.
Radcliff, as always, is a delight to watch as a cartoon clown mom, and home employee Scotty’s (newcomer Sahil Khullar) accented charm demands attention against the two very experienced retirees. Marilyn’s kids, daughter Colleen (Kaitlyn McClincy) and son-in-law Derek (Matt Tarr), have excellent chemistry and timing. Like a real retirement home, the play comes to life when the kids come to visit.
t’s hard to buy the characters’ motivations. Willoughby’s Abby was just a bit crabby with a vaguely defined backstory about an awful son, and Radcliff ’s Marilyn has a history of domestic violence that isn’t explored or reflected in her character work. The short play has long beats without dialogue as if the author forgot to write in character development. We don’t even get a concrete reason for either of these healthy young women to need around-the-clock medical care, except that Abby can’t taste, a heavy-handed metaphor for her forgetting to enjoy life.
UNO grad Kevin Goshorn has a scene as Abby’s son, Benja-min, that feels underdeveloped in writing and direction. While the dialogue indicates that this seemingly normal woman mothered a drug addict, it fails to even hint at how he fell down such a slippery slope. Goshorn does little to explain how a man in his 20s spent decades as a drug addict without picking up an ounce of sleaze. What wants to be the emotional core of the show simply falls flat.
The pranks escalate to a dan-gerous level quickly but just aren’t that funny. Abby plasters the halls with Marilyn’s late husband’s police records and Marilyn pretends to die twice. The premise (and title) of the show obviously came from the Act I ender in which Marilyn’s family kidnaps Abby to take her skydiving. None of the other pranks live up.
The set is a simple pair of ropes moved to represent the shape of the room. It’s a clean look that does a fine job of establishing locations, but scene changes somehow took forever. I felt my eyelids droop by the third scene change. Perhaps the blackouts were kept long to showcase the jazzy original waiting music by local composer Tim Vallier, but it felt like padding.
“Ripcord” is playing through Feb. 11 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Tickets are available at (402) 553-0800 or www.OmahaPlayhouse.com.