Tuesday evening (May 8, 2018) I had the pleasure of an invite from a friend at Turner Broadcasting for a girls’ night out to see Ripcord at Aurora Theatre. Turner is the sponsor of the Aurora’s current production, and the Aurora spoiled us by serving delicious gourmet cupcakes from the Special Kneads Bakery in Lawrenceville (they sell treats from the bakery in the concession stand, and I recommend the Choc-corn–it’s to die for), but the foodie in me will have to wait…back to reviewing Ripcord.
Ripcord, penned by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, is the story of two elderly woman who share a room at the Bristol Place assisted living facility. It opened off Broadway in October, 2015 and was directed by David Hyde-Pierce (best known for his role as Miles in the situation-comedy Frazier) and featured Holland Taylor and Marylouise Burke in the lead roles.
Directed for the Aurora by Jaclyn Hoffman, Ripcord is the story of Abby Binder, a crabby, cantankerous woman who has driven all her former roommates away, and Marilyn Dune, a glass is half-full Yoga practicing optimist who is Abby’s latest roommate. The story centers around Abby’s desire to rid Marilyn from her room and Marilyn’s desire to stay, which results in a bet that takes the two women on an odyssey of hilarious pranks. On the surface, the story is a comedy; however, as the layers are peeled away, the audience finds that each woman has a backstory that shapes her personality and outlook on life. This is a story that explores lives lived and mistakes made that provides humor mixed with a touch of sadness and sensitivity. It will make you laugh, cry, and love these two women and the struggles they’ve faced in their lives.
When you enter the theatre, the stage is set in their nicely appointed nursing home bedroom. One can’t help but study the set, which provides clues about the two characters. The bed on the left is messy and unkempt, the dresser full of family pictures, and on the floor a makeshift shrine to Buddha. The bed on the right is neatly made, the dresser full of books, and in contrast to the Buddhist shrine was a comfortable armchair. We couldn’t help but feel we were going to see the female equivalent of The Odd Couple. The ladies’ room is attended by Scott, a struggling actor who greets them each day with a smile, makes their beds, takes out their trash, gives them medication, and does his best to make them feel like they have a friend. In addition to the bedroom scene, the alcove walls were painted to resemble trees in the fall, and the fencing along the sides added a beautiful touch and provided the setting for outdoor scenes.
Without providing too many spoilers, suffice it to say that the Aurora lives up to its reputation of providing the audience with a professional production of the highest caliber. The technical elements are perfectly executed, and if there is a glitch in lighting, sound, or set change, it’s not discernible. The pre-show and transition music between scenes gives the same nostalgic feel that movie goers get when hearing the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy (a strange parallel, I know). My friends and I found ourselves singing along to Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walking and many other familiar songs from our youth.
“Keynote-worthy“ performances: As with all Aurora shows, it’s difficult to decide who to choose, but standout performances include Russell Alexander II as Scottie (Russell expertly depicts his character as someone who deeply cares about for the residents, and not just because it’s what he’s paid for); Jill Jane Clements as Marilyn (Jill does a beautiful job of playing happy-go-lucky and keeping her cool.) , Donna Biscoe as Abby (Donna tackled the difficult task of endearing the audience to a not-so-likeable character), and the remainder of the ensemble, who each fit together as pieces of a puzzle creating an amusing and touching story. Special shout out to the unsung heroes–set designer Lizz Dorsey, lighting designer Mary Parker, and the technical crew for a well executed performance.
Now I know you’re asking, “Why is it called Ripcord?” I think it’s best not to give that away in this review. You’ll have to see the show for yourselves to find out.
Ripcord plays from May 10th to June 3rd at Aurora Theater, 128 E Pike St, Lawrenceville, GA 30045: For tickets, call the box office at (678) 226-6222 or visit their website at http://www.auroratheatre.com/
–Jody Key — managing editor
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