"Boca" is about the flaky antics of seniors in a retirement community. Act II Playhouse turns a so-so play into a fun-filled evening.
"Boca" by Jessica Provenz is about the flaky antics of seniors in the Boca Oasis Retirement Community. Under director Tony Braithwaite, Act II Playhouse turns a so-so play into a fun-filled evening, continuing the tradition of sending its audience home with smiles.
Provenz first wrote "Stay, Please," a 10-minute play for a one-act play festival. Its success inspired the playwright to compose an extended 90-minute play consisting of 10 short scenes. Actors play multiple, intertwining characters who are authentic loonies in the hands of Braithwaite's talented cast.
In "My Happy Place" Susan, played convincingly by Ellen Ratner, comes closest to being the main character. A former kindergarten teacher, she uses a hand puppet to silence a restive audience. In her campaign speech for the condo's presidency, Susan delivers Provenz's message: Boca is more than a fancy gated community, "It's about people who show up for each other."
The importance of community and friendship reoccurs. Mo and Marty are featured in the first and final acts. In "The Playoffs" Marty misses Mo, and in his friend's absence, he delivers a monologue about his youthful dream to become a baseball player. Marty wishes his father would have shown up "for just one game, one practice even. It would have meant the world."
But in "Boca," this "showing up for each other" is a weak through line. Characters are more lone wolf than communal; the plot jumps around like a thrown stone skipping across the creek; the script never settles into a comedy genre. Why, then, is the production so much fun? The answer is this: Provenz's loosely connected, zany skits give the Act II production team the chance to "Party Like it's 1999."
Five actors exult in multiple roles. Production stage manager, Patricia G. Sabato heads up a strong technical corps; Meghan Jones and Alice Dake create a sunny set; thanks to Adam Danoff, the show is full of pop hits you could dance to; wigs by Bridget Brennan are so transformative you sometimes struggle to identify the actor who assumes a new role.
Penelope Reed, former director of Hedgerow Theatre and winner of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award plays Janet, who wins Susan's husband in a game of "Texas Hold 'Em." Later, she is hilarious as Iris in "Silver Alert," running away in a Tesla with the condo's yoga guru in "Thelma and Louise" fashion.
Mary Martello, winner of 5 Barrymore Awards, plays Louise. Marty's curmudgeon wife works out her anger at the Peloton and competes with Susan for the condo presidency. In "Stay, Please" Martello plays nubile Elaine, enticing Bruce with lasagna until she makes him an offer he can't refuse.
Peter Schmitz plays Marty who laments his "spite marriage." With the help of a wig, Schmitz is transformed into Robbie, Susan's desired and desiring husband. In "Three Inches" Schmitz plays Stan, the condo treasurer at a Zoom board meeting. Stan is comically palsied until he reveals a tragedy that satirizes condo regulatory zeal.
Tom Teti plays Mo, whose anniversary gift of a decayed tooth necklace sends his wife Iris speeding down the Florida highway. Teti also plays Bruce, a widowed lawyer. In a condo where women outnumber the men 4 to 1, Bruce is desired by many and the recipient of Elaine's multi-faceted enticements.
In scene 10, "On The Rocks: A Farce," four actors in different roles and relationships dash on and off the stage, each one in their own way trying to figure out how to honor the life of Susan. Again, the theme of "showing up for the other" is evoked.
But again, communal feeling takes a backseat to the collective, individual madcap, and madcap by itself is not "farce." It is apt to remember Susan was a kindergarten teacher, and these condo folks are like kindergarten kids, always acting out with desperate vitality.
With theater's older adult demographics, "Boca" has natural appeal to an audience full of people with bucket lists of "things to do" before the fat lady sings. The real message of "Boca" is "just do it." The troupe's improvised dance finale, "The Company" enhances this viewpoint and was joyously received by the opening night audience.
Act II Playhouse is located at 56 E. Butler Ave in Ambler Pa. "Boca" will run through 3 Sept. Tickets available at 215-654-0200, or online at www.act2.org