Review by Tulis McCall
21 October 2015
Take equal parts David Lindsay-Abaire, Marylouise Burke, Holland Taylor and David Hyde Pierce, shake, shake, shake - and you have yourself a very funny show. Well, perhaps not VERY funny - but funny enough.
This is an old story - put two people of opposing points of view into one room and wait for them to kill one another. Abby Binder (Holland Taylor) has been living in the Bristol Place Assisted Living Facility (the exact opposite of the place where Weller and Fonsia reside in The Gin Game) for four years. In that time she has been mostly the sole proprietor of a double room. Not because there is a vast turnover but because she is a bully and no one wants to live with her.
Marilyn Dunne (Marylouise Burke) is a perky newcomer who inhales life and breathes out fairy dust. She is positive and loves to talk - both qualities that Abby despises. Try as Abby might, she cannot seem to get Marilyn tossed out of the room - even though a recent death has brought a new vacancy. Real estate is everything in this place. As for Marilyn, she likes Abby as well as the view. She does not want to go.
About 30 minutes into the play (the first 30 minutes are barely necessary and include a visit to a haunted house that is not needed in the least) the two strike up a deal. The wager is that if Marilyn can scare Abby she will not only stay but get the bed near the window. If Abby can make Marilyn mad, Marilyn will move out. Finally we achieve lift off of some substance.
Thus ensues dastardly deeds that show us who these women are and of what they are capable. This is where the meat of the play lies and Lindsay-Abaire lets his imagination run loose. Abby can be meaner than we had imagined and Marilyn will go pretty far to frighten her roommate. There are a few hilarious moments as well as some shameful ones. As each woman ramps up her campaign the atmosphere shifts and the two become allies in combat. Isn't there a syndrome name for this?
As time goes on, and the layers peel off, we get a few glimpses into who these women are - but not enough for my taste and certainly not enough to satisfy the talents of Taylor and Burke. What could be a character study comes off not quite comedy and not quite tragedy. The play becomes plodding and luke-warm in places. Luke warm is not where Lindsay-Abaire shines. Even the predictable ending rolls this play to a full stop.
The night is not a waste by any means. We are surprised more than once as the plot and these two women pick up steam. And the performances, with the exception of a few blown lines, are pure pleasure. This is a play that entertains without making you think too much. David Hyde Pierce's direction is solid and unaffected. Still, you may leave the theatre as I did, wanting just a bit more from these two complex women. It is one of those plays where "The End" feels more like "The Beginning" and you wish you could hang around to see what happens. And pull a couple of ripcords just for the heck of it.
"Like a fleet of shiny subway trains in a utopian metropolis, 'gotcha' moments arrive right on schedule in 'Ripcord,' David Lindsay-Abaire's expertly engineered situation comedy about adversarial roommates in a retirement home."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Audience members hoping for substantial laughter and impact from 'Ripcord' are left wanting."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Beyond the high jinks, 'Ripcord' offers a compelling look at the pleasure of a challenge and the challenge of finding pleasure."
Adam Feldman for Time Out New York
"While there's no shortage of funny lines and inspired moments of physical comedy in director David Hyde Pierce's production, there's also an air of fatigue about the script, giving the dispiriting impression that Lindsay-Abaire either banged it out in a hurry or rescued it from a bottom drawer."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Although smartly directed by David Hyde Pierce, the slender sitcom hangs for dear life on the appeal of its engaging stars, Marylouise Burke and Holland Taylor."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...
New York Times - New York Daily News - Time Out - Hollywood Reporter - Variety
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