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BWW Review: GEEZERS at Ankeny Community Theatre

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This production reminds us to listen to stories while we still can through December 12.

BWW Review: GEEZERS at Ankeny Community Theatre
The cast of "Geezers"
Photo by Lisa Wagner

If the first thing you think of at the holidays is people in the nursing homes, then Ankeny Community Theatre has the perfect holiday show for you in "Geezers' by Tommy Lee Johnston. While the play may not occur during the Christmas holiday or be at a typical holiday location, this show has a message that is an excellent reminder as we go into the holiday season. It is a message of honoring those older than us by hearing their stories before their stories are gone forever.

The show starts with Gina, a caring nurse who puts the people at the retirement home ahead of herself, hiring a nervous Jack, whose mother worked at the nursing home before her passing. From the top of the show, Jack has a hard time connecting with the residents, but that starts to change when Kate, who longs for the acting career she missed out on, finds out Jack is a playwright. While his plays aren't that good, she suggests he starts listening and writing their stories and could make them into a play. Is telling these stories more beneficial for the residents or him? That you will have to attend "Geezers" to find out.

Under the direction of Lisa Gould, this production focuses on the residents' stories. One of the ways she does this is by having the stories these residents tell take place at Jim's apartment as he's typing what the residents have told him earlier in the day. I like the separation, especially as younger cast members tell the memories of the older cast. While this was an effective tool, it did seem to stop the show instead of flowing into and out of the story. The set designed by Frank Sposeto the second gives the audience the traditional set with an opening for a hallway in the back that Ankeny audiences have become accustomed to, with a fun surprise reveal used as the audience goes between the nursing home and the resident's stories. Lighting and sound for this show were done by Abby Martin, who did a great job and supplemented the stories well as she was able to put the focus on the story happening either in the story world or in the retirement home.

As with all stories on stage, they aren't complete without a cast to tell them, and director Lisa Gould has put together a cast of Ankeny Community Theatre favorites returning to the stage, as well as three actors making their Ankeny debuts. Returning to the ACT stage in the role of Jack is Troy Gould, and Gould does a terrific job of balancing when to use the character's ticks and stutter and when not to. Joining Gould in the leading role of Gina, the nurse at the retirement is Beth Feilmeier. You can see how much of a backstory she has developed for her characters from the top of the show. It's fun to watch as she reveals what makes her character the way she is and how far she is willing to go to make the lives of the residents the best they can be.

A play called "Geezers" wouldn't be possible without a strong group of actors to take on the characters living in the retirement home. The residents of this retirement home consist of Dan Chase as Neil, Ann Claes as Kat, Arlen Daleske as Ray, and Barb Wagner as Emily. Looking at the credits these actors have before the show, you will know that you are in for a treat. While we don't hear any of these actors share their character's stories before the retirement home, you can see the weight their stories carry. There was almost a release each of their characters went through as Jack wrote down their stories, and they realized their stories would continue after they were gone.

Sharing the stores are younger cast members, Adriann Arrington and Crystal Winklepleck, making their Ankeny stage debuts, and Todd Reed returning to the stage. Todd takes on two characters' stories on stage. While each of these actors appears momentarily in the show, their impact is felt throughout the play. The stories they tell bring the heart of the show to the audience. Each story these actors told was moving in their own ways.

If after seeing this show you want to see another of playwright Tommy Lee Johnston's plays, which I'm sure you will, you are in luck as Ankeny will be sharing another of his shows this spring. Something special for those in attendance on December 4's show was that the playwright was in attendance at that show.

While many of the stories we love at the holidays are feel-good stories, it's time to start a new tradition. It's time to listen to the stories our older family members and friend have to tell before their stories are gone forever. From a terrific team backstage to the fantastic cast onstage, Ankeny's production of "Geezers" will give you that reminder this holiday season. If you haven't had a chance to catch this production, you still have another weekend as this show closes on December 12. To find out more about this production, or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com/

Review was written by DC Felton
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