A funny new play about old people, Bill Semans and Roy M. Close”™s play Exit Strategy is a real treat. In this delightful story, a pair of senior citizens learn you”™re never too old for an exciting adventure.
The lights come up on a shabby lounge area of an old rooming house. This is the Penley Hotel, an old residence that caters to elderly people on fixed incomes. There”™s a prominent crucifix on one stained wall, some ratty old furniture and a few mouse traps discreetly laid along the baseboards.
Pretty soon we meet two long-term residents, James (James Sikking) and Mae (Debra Mooney). He”™s a former actor and college professor whose dyed hair belies his given age of 82. She”™s a crabby, silver-haired old bird who, as manager, rules the roost with a firm hand. Witness Mae”™s opening line to James, a barked demand of “No smoking!” There”™s the occasional clash over the house rules, especially on where the thermostat should be set, but we see the pair are comfortable co-tenants in this decrepit rooming house. James and Mae also exchange frank banter about typical “˜old folks”™ troubles, such as prescription pills and prostate and peeing issues.
But when Mae shows James a notice she”™s just received, stating that their building is scheduled for demolition, you can see their spirits crumple as if all their breath has been kicked out of them. The pair of pensioners find themselves facing imminent eviction and an uncertain future.
Enter Alex (John C. Moskoff), a younger man on a mission (he”™s around 70) with an intriguing proposition. He asks to rent a room for a few weeks and, towards the end of Act 1, draws the pair into his confidence. It transpires that Alex has come to town to reclaim a valuable item that was stolen from his family years ago. He needs their help in order to get it back, but what he wants to ask of them is not entirely legal…
Debra Mooney is just wonderful as the salty old gal. Sikking is hilarious as James, the has-been actor, never slipping into stereotype with his portrayal of an old queen of the stage. Playing Alex, Moskoff brings a breath of fresh air and upbeat mentality to his role. Against the stale malaise that the other two seem stuck in, his positive outlook is precisely like an essential tonic that shakes them out of their complacency and helps them dream again.
This inspiring drama features three versatile veterans of television and film: marvelous Debra Mooney (The Practice, Everwood, Boston Legal), the charismatic James Sikking (Made of Honor, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, M.D.) and the charming John C. Moskoff (The Wonder Years, Gypsy, Requiem for a Heavyweight).
The trio give superlative performances – their line readings and subtext are simply spot on. Together, they are completely convincing as pensioners who concoct a scheme intended to right an old wrong.
Well-directed and beautifully performed, Exit Strategy is a highly enjoyable night at the theater.
THE FALCON THEATRE
is located at 4252 Riverside Drive, in Burbank.
Box office and bookings – (818) 955 8101
Runs: until Sunday, November 15, 2009 (4pm show)
PERFORMANCES: Wed.-Sat. at 8pm, Sundays at 4pm
Weekdays (Wed/Thurs) $32.50 – $35.00
Weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) $37.50 – $40.00
All production photos by Chelsea Sutton.
review by Pauline Adamek