by Terrance Mc Arthur
A romantic comedy about Golden-Agers embarking on the rough seas of 21st-century online dating…and everything that follows? You’d better fill its two-person cast with solid, dependable performers…and that’s what the Good Company Players did with Amelia Ryan and Noel Adams in Kalamazoo, playing at the 2nd Space Theatre through April 16.This warm, laugh-filled comedy was written by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger. Brooks is the daughter-in-law of Mel Brooks, while Younger works in story development at Pixar and Disney (he co-wrote and co-executive produced the Emmy-winning Muppet Haunted Mansion). The Irish-Catholic Peg (Ryan) and the Jewish Irv (Adams) fill out an online dating app at the insistence of their children, meeting for their first date at a Mexican restaurant over a mammoth margarita. They have differences that should keep them apart, but both are mourning their late spouses, which brings them together in sympathy.
In scarcely more than an hour (with no intermission), we follow the couple to beaches, hotels, a strip club, and a living room where they face the disapproval of their children. These settings are all suggested by projected images and the barest amount of furniture. Just as the sets are simple, the story is simple, yet there is a depth of heart and feeling beneath the rapid-fire punchlines.
Ryan is the master of the contemplative pause, that moment between where a character wonders “Why would I possibly consider doing that?” and saying “What the heck! Cowabunga!”…And when she sings! Wow! Her operatic experience shows through.
Adams has always been a chameleon onstage, capable of being a lovably bombastic Swedish uncle, a disciplinarian father stifling his daughter’s life, or a miser visited by ghostly spirits. Constantly entertaining, he shows doubt, panic, shock, fear, and 22 other emotions.
Kristin Lyn Crase, in her first outing as a Good Company Players director, steers a smooth course while hugging close to the laughs. David Pierce’s scenic design skillfully repurposes elements and techniques from previous GCP shows. Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes and Ajay Davis’s lights give the audience fun things to see, and makes things seen clearly.
Set crews are usually supposed to be unseen changers of props and furniture. With all the scene changes in Kalamazoo, on a stage without closing curtains, the crew should be seen. Jocelyn Chavira and Chloe Dumore swiftly rearrange reality in short bursts of activity, and they deserve the curtain call they get with the stars of the play.
The title, Kalamazoo, does represent a place, but it also represents a dream and a goal. In a way, it represents happiness, something we all want to find. As Irv tells us, “You’re never too old to be young.”
The play is rated R for adult situations and brief language.
For some people, this play will evoke memories. For others, it will be a preview–or a warning–of things to come.
The 2nd Space Theatre is at 928 E. Olive Ave, in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.
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