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Review Roundup: David Lindsay-Abaire's RIPCORD Opens Off-Broadway

Manhattan Theatre Club's world premiere of Ripcord, the new comedy by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Tony and Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce, opens tonight, October 20, at MTC at New York City Center - Stage I (131 West 55th Street).

The limited engagement features Drama Desk Award winner Marylouise Burke, Rachel Dratch, Glenn Fitzgerald, Daoud Heidami, Nate Miller, and Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Holland Taylor.

David Lindsay-Abaire, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Rabbit Hole, Fuddy Meers, and Good People, returns to MTC with Ripcord, a high-stakes comedy about two women of a certain age locked in a no-holds-barred battle to the death, directed by Tony and Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Like a fleet of shiny subway trains in a utopian metropolis, "gotcha" moments arrive right on schedule in "Ripcord," David Lindsay-Abaire's expertly engineered situation comedy about adversarial roommates in a retirement home. You can see each little successive climax of triumph hurtling toward you from a distance, beaming with self-delight, and when it reaches its destination, you laugh contentedly, not because you're surprised, but because you aren't...Yet this latest work from Mr. Lindsay-Abaire...churns up shadows only to dispel them with punch lines. Or so it feels in this production, which is directed by David Hyde Pierce. The show has the feeling of the homemade Halloween spookhouse that figures in a pivotal scene; it turns what we're deeply afraid of into a parade of gently tickling diversions...I suppose you could say such ambivalence is at the root of all comedy. But "Ripcord" only skims the bright surface of dark waters, and it can often feel as dismissively blithe as an episode of "Frasier"...As it is, Ms. Burke and Ms. Taylor appear to be coasting a bit in parts that come all too easily to them.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer (for "Rabbit Hole") has come up with an amiable if simplistic crowdpleaser, in the form of a duel of wits between "odd couple" roommates in an assisted living facility. Although smartly directed by David Hyde Pierce, the slender sitcom hangs for dear life on the appeal of its engaging stars, Marylouise Burke and Holland Taylor...Lindsay-Abaire is only sporadically successful at devising dirty tricks that the two women can use to torment one another. The more elaborate sitcom exploits...are the least effective, while the simpler, more psychologically subtle ones...are much funnier. The major miscalculation, however, rests in the writer's one-dimensional depiction of his two major characters, who are clearly intended to charm the audience, not alienate a huge swath of it.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: That sublimely daffy muse [Marylouise Burke] returns opposite the bone-dry Holland Taylor in Ripcord, which signals a detour for the playwright back to the territory of his earlier work. But this is a lazy piece of writing without the freshness or bite of plays like Fuddy Mears or Kimberly Akimbo, recycling familiar comic situations while failing to settle on a definitive tone...while there's no shortage of funny lines and inspired moments of physical comedy in director David Hyde Pierce's production, there's also an air of fatigue about the script, giving the dispiriting impression that Lindsay-Abaire either banged it out in a hurry or rescued it from a bottom drawer.

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: The great fun of David Lindsay-Abaire's tastily sweet-and-sour Ripcord lies in watching the marvelous Taylor and Burke dig their heels into this stand-off. Solidly crafted to land somewhere between The Odd Couple and The Gin Game, the play is not unpredictable, but it's larded with moments of surprise, both wacky (they visit a haunted house!) and more substantial. The latter aspects come through strongly in David Hyde Pierce's elegant production, which never loses sight of the women's humanity; when the play gets serious, in a pivotal scene between Taylor and Glenn Fitzgerald, it's genuinely moving. Beyond the high jinks, Ripcord offers a compelling look at the pleasure of a challenge and the challenge of finding pleasure.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: A bet that spins out of control is a sitcom staple and, now, the crux of "Ripcord," a non-essential and not very funny new comedy...The endearing Marylouise Burke, an actress who radiates more warmth than a sunbeam, is in full command of her role as the ever-cheery Marilyn. Classy Holland Taylor is much less at-ease as the always grumpy Abby, her reluctant roommate in an assisted-living residence...Kooky twists and dark turns are straight from the Lindsay-Abaire playbook, so a haunted house, a skydiving scene and nasty antics are quirky but not all that surprising. That the author tries to wring chuckles out of senior citizen spewing profanity is shockingly uninspired.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: As "Ripcord" progresses -- the uneven direction is by David Hyde Pierce -- the two ladies play a series of escalating pranks on one another, jokes that cross over early into the painful and cruel...Both women have deep secrets in their families. Each manages to suss out the other's and use it against her, but the gags and tricks ultimately shortchange any opportunity the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright ("Rabbit Hole") has to deliver a meaningful message. Burke is all flappy arm movements and eccentric caftans. Taylor is tweedy and economical in her gestures. You won't get tired watching these two pros one-upping each other, but you may be left to wonder whether Lindsay-Abaire is too generous with his support for Marilyn over Abby.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: At the core of "Ripcord" a Lifetime movie struggling to escape the quirky trappings of David Lindsay-Abaire's comedy. Rest assured: The show makes the escape with barely a bruise to anyone's heartstrings. After plays like "Fuddy Meers" and "Kimberly Akimbo," oddball is what you expect from Lindsay-Abaire, as well as from actress Marylouise Burke, who holds the patent on garrulous, pixilated old women...To his credit, Lindsay-Abaire turns some of the schmaltzier moments in "Ripcord" on their head, and things turn out to be not as they first appear. One of these switches delivers a great 11th-hour jolt. For the theatergoer, it's kind of like going into insulin shock then being told your sugar levels are just fine.

Check back in the AM for updates!

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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