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'Ripcord' replete with 'humor of a certain age'

| Sunday, March 4, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Susan Allardice (from left), Jimmy Gaschler and Mary Ferrara in a scene from 'Ripcord.'
Matt Mlynarski
Susan Allardice (from left), Jimmy Gaschler and Mary Ferrara in a scene from 'Ripcord.'

It's understandable that New Kensington Civic Theatre's “Ripcord” will resonate with fans of classic TV comedies like “The Golden Girls” and “The Odd Couple.”

Susan Allardice, though, hopes that younger people also will see the show, being presented March 8 to 11 at Penn State New Kensington's Forum Theatre “and appreciate that just because a person reaches retirement age they're not done living.”

Allardice of Bradfordwoods, as the cantankerous Abby, and Mary Ferrara of Vandergrift, as the usually sweet and accommodating Marilyn, take the leads. Allardice is a veteran of stages in the North Hills but this is in her Civic Theatre debut, while Ferrara has been a part of New Kensington productions since 1990.

“For an actress of ‘a certain age,' good meaty parts are few,” Allardice says. Ferrara agrees.

A sunny room on an upper floor is prime real estate in the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility, but when Abby is forced to share her quarters with new arrival Marilyn, she feels she has no choice but to get rid of the infuriatingly chipper woman by any means necessary.

A seemingly harmless bet between the women about who should have the bed by the window quickly escalates into a dangerous game of one-upmanship.

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire reveals not just the tenacity of these worthy opponents, but also deeper truths that each would rather remain hidden.

Allardice appreciates that he combines humor with human emotion. “He has a very fine touch with creating characters who aren't caricatures, but real people,” Allardice says.

“I love playing Abby because she has such great dimension. She's quick-witted, but rather hard-shelled. She hides the pain of her life behind sarcasm and sharp barbs,” she says. “But, we do get a glimpse of her tender side and the reasons why she puts up a wall against relationships.”

The lengths to which these two women go to win their bet is hilarious and revealing, Ferrara adds. “I enjoy comedies because I love hearing the laughter of an audience,” she says. “ ‘Ripcord' is easy to relate to and has very funny moments as well as raw and emotional ones.”

Everyone deals with growing older and having those battles with people they don't necessarily like at first, says director Matt Mlynarski of Lower Burrell. “What this show does best is it deals with those problems but in a very unique and comedic way,” he says.

Lindsay-Abaire is one of his favorite playwrights. “I think his characters and his bizarre humor is some of the best writing out there,” Mlynarski says.

He directed the playwright's “Wonder of the World” in 2012 for the Civic Theatre. “Ripcord” is a new show “and this is the Pittsburgh-area premiere,” says Mlynarsk, who praises his cast as outstanding.”

“They are all community theater vets from around the area and they each bring a different set of strengths on helping build this hilarious show,” he explains. “They have wonderful comedic timing and they all work very well together.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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