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Poignant 'Kalamazoo' offers laughs, wisdom

Poignant 'Kalamazoo' offers laughs, wisdom

A completely satisfying production aimed at an older audience
Poignant 'Kalamazoo' offers laughs, wisdom
Barbara Richards and Jack Fallon in the Curtain Call Theatre production of "Kalamazoo."
Photographer: Amanda Brinke

LATHAM — In the wedding section of the Sunday New York Times, June 24 edition, I observed that roughly a quarter of the featured couples had met on some sort of electronic dating site. 

So it is no surprise that playwrights Michelle Brooks (daughter-in-law of funnyman Mel) & Kelly Younger have two contemporary 70-somethings meet on-line in "Kalamazoo." Both widowed after long and loving marriages, Peg (Barbara Richards), who is Catholic, and Irving (Jack Fallon), who is Jewish, are a little bemused by answering a series of questions about who they are: not easy, perhaps, if you haven’t had to explain yourself to anyone for over 40 years.

Thus this amusing one-act play opens at Curtain Call Theatre, with the two of them on a bare stage, speaking aloud for our benefit the site’s questions and their answers. This clever and efficient approach to exposition is in keeping with a 65-minute work that chronicles the ups and downs of the couple’s meeting, courtship, estrangement, and marriage. (Oh, you know the ending from the beginning, but it doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable.)

It is inevitable, of course, that much of the humor comes from one-liners about replaced hips, pushy grown children, sexual insecurity, Alzheimer’s disease, and all of the products designed to help digestion and prevent flatulence. Brooks & Younger are nowhere near the ages of their characters, so one can safely say they’re fairly good observers of their elders or they watched a lot of “Golden Girls.” Sunday’s audience was generally composed of their elders, yours truly decidedly included, and the laughs — boisterous! genuine! — suggested that the playwrights know for whom they’re writing. 

The play also delivers a few Aha! moments. Lines like “You’re never too old to be young” and “I like myself with you” provide a little wisdom to go along with the silliness, and eight brief scenes are just enough to do justice to the material.

The production is completely satisfying. Frank Oliva’s spare scenic design, Lily Fossner’s lighting,  Lawrence Schober’s sound work, Lynne Skaskiw’s props, and Rebecca Gardner’s stage management are of a piece: simple and evocative of the various places. The music between scenes, in particular, subtly sets the mood for what’s coming next.

It’s not easy to create an arc out of eight brief scenes, but director Rachael Sheffer and expert old pros Fallon and Richards have done just that. They find the heart that each scene contributes to the whole. Except for a couple of pauses on Sunday, the pace is just right: quick for the humor, slow for the poignance. (I especially liked the scene in the restaurant when Irving mentions sex and Peg reflexively puts her finger over the straw, as if covering up somebody’s ears! A delicious moment among many.)

The play makes you wonder where it has all gone — but also curious about where it’s still going. While driving home in 95-degree temps, I passed a buff, shirtless guy running. You’ll get heatstroke! Did you put on sunscreen? Years from now, you could get cancer, I thought. “Years from now.” And then I smiled. Mazel tov, young man.



'Kalamazoo'

WHERE:  Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN:   through Aug. 1
HOW MUCH:  $25
MORE INFO:  518.877.7529, or curtaincalltheatre.com

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