Uneven SOCIAL SECURITY at The Community Players

Uneven SOCIAL SECURITY at The Community Players

To open their ninety-eighth season, the Community Players is offering SOCIAL SECURITY by Andrew Bergman at Jenks Auditorium in Pawtucket. The play has an excellent pedigree. After twenty-six previews, the Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, opened on April 17, 1986 and ran for 388 performances. Not chopped liver. And New York Magazine in 1985 dubbed playwright Andrew Bergman "The Unknown King of Comedy,". His best known films include Blazing Saddles, The In-Laws, and The Freshman. Again, not chopped liver.

SOCIAL SECURITY focuses on trendy Manhattan art gallery owners Barbara (Joyce Leven) and David Kahn (Mark Lima), whose life is upended when Barbara's Mineola housewife sister Trudy(JoAnn Vinagro Bromley) deposits their septuagenarian mother Sophie (Janette Gregorian) on the couple's doorstep while she and her husband Martin (David Mann) head to Buffalo to rescue their sexually precocious college student daughter from a ménage a trios with two men. Barbara and David introduce Sophie to suave nonagenarian artist Maurice Koenig (Lee Hakeem), who offers to paint her portrait and soon begins to brighten her life in ways she never expected in her twilight years. He's pretty surprised, too.

At first the play seemed to have been about the clash of cultures between the unsophisticates from Long Island and the ultra-sophisticates from Manhattan. Martin is an accountant and is unable to appreciate the paintings on the Kahns walls except as investments (I can sort of see his point). Bromley and Leven seem as unalike as sisters can be-a function of the paths they chose, I guess. But once Trudy and Mark shuffle off to Buffalo, that conflict goes with them, and the play becomes about the travails of old age and of living with an elderly parent. After a short time with her mother, Barbara has had it. As her mother approaches from her bedroom, Barbara can hear the thump of her walker: "Do not ask for whom the walker thunps,' she wails, "it thumps for thee."

Suddenly, the play stops being about that and becomes about Sophie's metamorphosis. At the last, she reveals that she has known more about what has been going on around her than anyone suspected.

Mark Lima as David has some funny lines, but I have to say David's lusting after his niece was creepy in a Woody Allen sort of way. Maybe it's a Manhattan thing.

While SOCIAL SECURITY has some funny moments, and the matinee audience of around 130soulsseemed to be enjoying itself, I have to say it did not quite do it for me. The actor muffing a few lines was one problem, but, in the end, I don't think Bergman had a real handle on where this vehicle was headed.

SOCIAL SECURITY runs one more weekend, September 21 and 22 at 7:30 and a matinee at 2:00 on Sunday the 23. Tickets are $18.00 with discounts for students and can be purchased online at http://www.thecommunityplayers.net/, or by calling 401-726-6860. Jenks Auditorium is located at 350 Division St., Pawtucket. The building is wheelchair accessible, though it could use a few more handicap spaces. Caveat Emptor: The handicap bathroom required some perseverance to locate, but all the bathrooms are accessible to a degree.

Photocredit: Robert Emerson

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