Review: World Premiere Comedy GREY NOMAD Celebrates the Lifestyle of Australia's Newly Retired Cross-Country Travelers
Just as so many retired Americans over the age of 55 are choosing to sell their homes and take to the roads crisscrossing our nation in motor homes or campers for extended periods of time, a growing number of Australian retirees, called Grey Nomads, are choosing to continuously circumnavigate the world's largest island the same way. The world premiere comedy GREY NOMAD by Australian playwright Dan Lee, directed by Iain Sinclair as a guest production at the Skylight Theatre, captures these travelers' unique spirit and sense of camaraderie, with tons of laughter thrown in along the way.
"GREY NOMAD is really about my parents and their generation learning to deal with their own mortality by making a commitment to hit the road and face their future with a sense of adventure. I first came into contact with the free-range baby boomers referred to as 'grey nomads' a couple of years ago, when I was living in Broome," explains playwright Lee. "Every year, in the dry season, they would stream into town in their RVs and camper trailers. The town would go from 15,000 to 50,000 in just a couple of weeks. They're a very funny and interesting bunch, people who've retired and dedicated the rest of their lives to just traveling in loops around Australia. This play is about two couples doing just that."
Lee's play is written with a very distinct Australian voice, making it a bit difficult to understand certain phrases not familiar to American ears. But no worries as the humor, just like the lifestyle, is increasingly universal, and I guarantee you will be laughing at yourself and your own relationships as reflected in the two couples at the center of the comedy.
On what is basically a bare stage in pastel colors, we first meet Jim (David Ross Paterson) who has waited his whole working life for this chance to just hit the road. He's bought the camper and the folding chairs, packed the fishing gear and the BBQ, with his only remaining question being in which direction - clockwise or counter-clockwise - he and his wife Helen (Ros Gentle) should travel. But it is very apparent from the start that his long-suffering wife is not quite as sure about just up and leaving her family and the life she spent so long creating.
When the couple suddenly finds themselves traveling the same circuit as "glampers" Tim (Paul Tassone) and his wild American wife, Val (Wendy Hammers), both outspoken believers in living life to the max in their birthday suits, Jim just can't relax each time "his" stopping point matches theirs. His laughable behavior, encouraging Helen to hide behind an open cooler top to avoid being seen or spoken to by such free-thinkers, created roars of laughter from the audience.
But for Helen, meeting carefree Tim and free-thinking Val opens up a whole new world of possibilities on how to live life to the fullest. Of course, she finds their lifestyle incredibly appealing as opposed to giving up her own desires just to please her uptight and self-centered husband. Can these two ever find a middle-ground way of life appealing to both of them?
The comedy continues with the two couples meeting over and over again at various locations, with each episode shedding more light on their motivations, hang-ups and desires. Will the uptight Jim ever be able to put his own needs aside and allow Helen to be just who she wants to be? Will the overly forward Tim get in between Jim and his frustrated wife? And just how will Val and Helen forge their new friendship over the Jim's objections? But of course, this is a comedy and final scene will leave you cheering for these newly reborn nomads.
The four actors are very well-cast, giving each of their characters a real aura of authenticity. And kudos to all for being willing to shed whatever clothes are required to further the arc of the story. I am sure their overwhelming expression of personal freedom to live life exactly as they want is taking place right now in places like the Kimberley's, Darwin, the Gulf, and in points across the vast expanse of northern Australia as well as around the world. So, before you decide to give it all up and take to the road with your loved one, remember all you need is a good sense of humor, lots of patience, and a willingness to explore new possibilities while keeping your budget in place for gasoline and beer!
The world premiere comedy GREY NOMAD written by Dan Lee, directed by Iain Sinclair, starring Ros Gentle, Wendy Hammers, David Ross Paterson, and Paul Tassone, is produced by Jackie Diamond, Nick Hardcastle, Nate Jones and Joshua Thorburn and presented by Australian Theatre Company as a visiting production at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027. Performances continue through October 8, 2017 on Mondays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8:30pm, and Sundays at 6pm. Reserved seating tickets are $39, general admission is $34, with Grey Nomads (ages 55+) at $29, and may be ordered by calling 866-811-4111 or online at www.australiantheatrecompany.org
Photos by Adrian Wlodarczyk