RIPCORD presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Feb. 16. Click here for a synopsis and more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati kicks off the new year with a laugh-out-loud comedy by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. His other well-know works include the book and lyrics for Shrek the Musical as well the plays Rabbit Hole and Good People, both of which have been staged at ETC.
Well, that escalated quickly and by “that” I mean a not-so-friendly wager between hard edged, set-in-her-ways Abby (Dale Hodges) and spirited, glass-is-half-full Marilyn (Pamela Myers). While the roles may not have been written specifically for these two actresses, the casting is pitch perfect. Not only do they have the comedy chops for the roles, but the honesty they bring to the smaller, emotional moments is just as satisfying.
Caught between their schemes is resident aide Scotty played by Ryan Wesley Gilreath. Gilreath brings an easy likability to the role and more importantly the understanding patience of a caregiver.
Rounding out the ensemble in multiple roles are Lisa DeRoberts, Carter Bratton, and Justin McCombs. DeRoberts couldn’t be any more perfect as Marilyn’s daughter Colleen. She matched her mother’s brashness and quirkiness in her own way and I would totally be up for a Marilyn/Colleen road trip sequel. Bratton has a fun turn as Colleen’s put-upon husband Derek. The two have a cute chemistry together, but I wouldn’t mind seeing his energy level a bit closer to her’s at times. The scene between Abby and her estranged son Benjamin (McCombs) was appropriately strained and uncomfortable with McCombs bringing a guilty vulnerability to the role.
The set and lighting design by Brian c. Mehring works incredibly well on two levels. First, the shared living space for Abby and Marilyn is visually a perfect, generic, modern hospital-esque room. It is immediately recognizable and instantly believable. The script has a couple of demanding scenes that take place outside of the facility which were handled with a creativity that impresses.
The costume design by Reba Senske worked well for the production. The choices for the leading ladies complimented their personalities. I enjoyed the variety of scrubs worn by Scotty as time progressed as well as the holiday-themed costumes which were appropriately unsettling. Although the space to personalize the room was limited, I enjoyed how the carefully chosen decor also reflected the style and personalities of Abby and Marilyn.
Overall, a satisfying production with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. A great showcase for these veteran performers on stage together for the first time.
My rating: 4.75 out of 5.
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