Being armed and ready to deal with ongoing challenges is a lifelong pursuit for most humans. And to our chagrin, sometimes it doesn’t get easier. Only difference: With age, we earn our right to be as flippant, wily and carefree as we please.
Such is the focus in TheatreNOW’s latest dinner show, “Senior Moments,” written by local playwright Don Fried. Though the show focuses on elderly characters, their problems span the ages—specifically in regards to love—and the naughty bits that come with it, which makes the show appropriately timed for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.
The show is actually three in one: a one-hour one act, “The Code,” and three shorter vignettes, which run 10 to 15 minutes, “The Gamblers,” “On the RAC(K)” and “The Ambassadors.” Directed by Ella Reischer, the shows feature multiple actors in multiple roles, including Marie Chonko, Ken Campbell, Charlotte Hackman, Michelle Reiff, Joe Loconomo, Juan Fernandez, and Carol Pendergrast.
“The scenarios depicted connect with us all in every stage of life,” according to Reischer. Audiences will meet a tough survivor who faced many adversities, a conniving if not lovable scam artist, a swinger, a tough-as-nails assisted living director, a lonely speed dater, an obsessed gambler, and a grouchy assisted living board member, among many others.
“The Code” follows 70-year-old Rose who learns her senile hubby is cheating on her with someone else in their nursing home. Instead of getting angry, she takes to the internet to find sexual gratification that has been missing from her life for 50 years of marriage.
“It also has the lesbian theme,” Fried tells. “It’s not at all graphic, though—but it’s not for children.”
“The Gamblers” takes on an elderly Colonel William, who takes his time meandering among huge air-conditioned casinos until he is accosted by Mother Angie. As it turns out, she has something more naughty on her mind than merely winning the big bucks.
“The Ambassadors” showcases an older American tourist through her trip to Milan, wherein a run-in with a taxi driver turns into an almost violent exchange.
“There’s a lot of heated debate at a meeting of the Residents Action Committee of a senior residence in ‘On the RAC(K),’ too,” according to Fried, “but nothing ever seems to be accomplished.”
“Senior Moments” already has been shown around the world, and even won several playwright and festival awards. As well, it is published in “Art Age,” which showcases senior theatre, and continues to be a top-seller.
“I’ve been a full-time playwright for 11 years and screenwriter for six,” Fried notes. He has overseen 10 full-length plays and has had over 60 of his productions staged around the world. When approaching a script, he first starts with research.
“While I did interview residents of a senior residence [for ‘Senior Moments,’] most of the inspiration for the vignettes came directly from my mother,” he tells. “About 10 years ago, I was talking to my 83-year-old mother on the phone and she said, ‘You know, I think I’m going to have a lesbian affair.’ When I stopped giggling, I said, ‘Mom, you’re the coolest old lady I know.’ I wrote it down in my play idea file. And that was the birth of ‘Senior Moments.’”
It took six months to research, but it practically wrote itself and was drafted in a couple weeks. Fried wrote it to be performed by as little as two actors, who could present it as standup at nursing homes. After revising once, he had it ready for its first production in Orange County, California.
“[It] was so successful, the company asked me to write an expanded version so they could present the play again two years later,” he adds. Such a version will appear on TheatreNOW’s stage. (Just as well, he did a screen adaptation optioned by Eden Rock Media, a Hollywood-based film production company, in 2013.)
Fried met with Reischer to discuss the show before auditions. While he has sat in on some rehearsals, he’s left major decisions of its delivery to the director and her cast.
“One of the most satisfying (and frightening) things in seeing productions of my work is how different they are from what I had in mind when I wrote them,” he says. “This production is no exception, but I’m having a ball with it.”
Reischer has had experience onstage (“Love Loss, and What I Wore,” “Love Happens”) and in the director’s chair most recently with TheatreNOW’s favorably reviewed “The Cemetery Club.” With the help of Marie Marrinan doing costuming, props, set design, and lighting, “Senior Moments” will open this weekend and run through Valentine’s Day.
And it won’t be the last of Fried’s words for 2018 either. TheatreNOW will showcase his historical comedy “Shakespeare Inc.”—about the Shakespeare authorship controversy—in the fall. Fried also will direct the production.