BWW Review: RIPCORD at Elkhart Civic Theatre
A week ago I was in need of a night of theatre that made me have faith in the art form again. Our area has had some good luck recently, with pretty much every theatre in the area giving at least one solid straight play to their audiences this season. Ripcord was that and so much more for Elkhart Civic Theatre's audiences!
Elkhart Civic Theatre presented a show that had the most fully fleshed out characters I've seen in a long time. Combine that with stellar acting from Jenny DiDario, Cameron Ponce, Stacey Nickel, and the trio of nut jobs that peopled the stage around them and you have a show that is a shame to have missed.
Ripcord has a simple enough premise, two old ladies arguing about living together in an old age home. Abby, played with an amazing amount of disdain for the human race around her by Jenny DiDario, is a mean spirited lady who just wants to live in her spacious room by herself. In comes Marilyn, the quintessential peppy grandma that loves everyone, wants to show you the new pictures of her grandchild, and loves the routine the home provides her. Stacey Nickel easily reminded the audience of every loving grandma you've ever run into. She is equal parts sweet and annoying and it makes her "Odd Couple" relationship with Abby all the more brilliant.
Keeping Abby from killing Marilyn is Scotty, a put upon orderly that aspires to be an actor and works at a haunted house on the side. Cameron Ponce is hilarious as Scotty and his ability to go with the flow, even when the flow turns sour between Abby and Marilyn, is a sight to see. This role proves that Cameron Ponce is a good actor and if you don't believe it, ask him to recite the final line his character yells.
The play takes Abby and Marilyn to a haunted house that Scotty is performing at. They go primarily to support the guy who does so much for them at the home with little to no thanks. The scene is made all the better by actors Patrick Farran, a zombie tour guide, Stephanie Yoder, a woman who wants Abby to protect her, I'm just going to guess, "ghost baby", and the hilarious Keith Sarber, as a clown that pops out of the floor, the walls, and wherever he can in search of his "old friends" and to snatch the baby to feed to his master. Add in a pint-sized Death, which reminded me of "The Death of Rats" from the Terry Pratchett Discworld Series, played by Anya Noneman, and you have a recipe for terror.
After the haunted house, Marilyn learns that nothing at the haunted house scared Abby and Abby learns that no matter what she does, even being awfully rude to poor Scotty about his acting in the haunted house, Marilyn won't get angry. With those realizations, a bet is made. If Abby can make Marilyn angry, Abby gets the room to herself. However, if Marilyn can scare the nerves of steel Abby, Marilyn gets the bed by the window. Let the scheming begin.
While Abby herself is enough to anger the most tender of hearts, Marilyn does her best to keep her composure and, in retaliation, brings her Daughter and Son-in-law (played by Yoder and Farran) into the bet to scare Abby and win her the bed by the window. Everything from dark abusive pasts, to a fake hanging, are used to win the bet.
In one of the best scenes I've seen on a stage this year, Marilyn and her clan drug Abby and take her skydiving with instructor Lewis, Marilyn's son. Sarber brings Lewis to life with all the necessary "hang ten" attitude of every 80's ski instructor who probably was smoking right before the lesson. In the scene, the group goes from airplane to sky with cords hung from the railings above them to make it look like they are parachuting through the sky. Director Demaree Dufour Noneman does an excellent job at making this scene simple and not overdoing the gag of falling through the sky, nor overuse the ropes the actors hang on to. Creating a believable scene that is as fantastical as it is real.
Over-all the show was stellar and it is a shame that it closed already, but it is also a great example of what Elkhart Civic Theatre has to present to its audiences. The quality of the characters created, and the story that was told, shows that everyone from the actors, to the director, to the artistic director cares about what they place upon their stage and want you to come away feeling good about supporting local theatre.
While "Ripcord" is no longer playing at the Elkhart Civic Theatre, you can still purchase tickets for their upcoming youth show "Madagascar: A Musical Adventure" (directed by me, Dave Kempher) or if you fancy something more adult, you can purchase tickets for "Disaster" (directed by Brock Butler) by going to elkhartcivictheatre.org or by telephone at (574) 848-4116.
photo credit: Mel Moore