Play is full of surprises as two mature women manipulate each other in a seemingly harmless bet

Back row, from left: Roberta Vinkhuyzen and Erik Browne; and front row, from left: Christy Wait and Rosalind Farotte, rehearse. Photo courtesy Limelight

By Marty Cheek

Live theater is making a comeback in South Valley. Local audiences will enjoy lots of laughs with the comedy show “Ripcord,” which opens Friday, Sept. 10, at the Limelight Theater in downtown Gilroy.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2015 off-Broadway play is a slapstick comedy full of surprising twists in which two mature women in a senior living facility manipulate each other in a seemingly harmless bet that quickly escalates into a dangerous game of one-upmanship.

The South Valley Civic Theater producers wanted to open Limelight’s season with a “feel good” show because of the stress on local residents from the COVID-19 pandemic , said director Angie Higgins.

“We’ve all been beaten down by the last year and a half, and we need an escape,” she said. “We need to join together as a community to have some laughs with a story with heart — and that’s why the producers decided to open the season with ‘Ripcord’ instead of doing it later in the season.”

The plot brings together “Abby Binder” (played by Rosalind Farotte) and “Marilyn Dunne” (played by Christy Wait) as roommates at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. For four years Abby Binder has kept a room to herself through the sheer force of her rude personality. When “bubbly, bright, and unbearably cheerful” Marilyn is placed in her room, Abby tries her usual tricks but fails to scare her annoying new roommate away. As the odd couple play emotionally and physically dangerous tricks on each other their secrets are revealed.

Other performers in the show are Andre Leben (playing the resident aide “Scotty”) and Roberta Vinkhuyzen, Erik Browne and Bruce Pember playing various supporting roles. Robin Bezanson serves as the managing director and Denee Lewis is the assistant director for the show.

Farotte knew she wanted to play the irascible Abby the minute she read the script. The role combines hilarious comedy with emotional drama, which challenges the actress to play a fascinating character.

“I love Abby,” she said. “She’s very snarky and has just biting words. She’s really not the nicest person in the world. There are things that have happened to her that make her like that. She has some really great one-liners and I just read the script and said, ‘Yep, that’s what I want to be.’”

As the play progresses, Abby’s personality changes as she grows aware of where she is in life and what she’s lost in life, Farotte said.

Wait describes the always cheerful Marilyn as a character who sees Abby as a challenge and so decides to prove to her there’s a more optimistic view of life. No matter what happens, she sees the sunny side, she said of her character.

“Marilyn is a glass mostly full type gal,” she said about her role. “She’s been thrown some rotten eggs in her life, but she has persevered and has not given up on the people in her life. . . She’s a survivor. She lived through kind of a difficult marriage. She just saw it through, she didn’t give up on it. And it’s just paid off. So she’s not giving up on Abbie either.”

Wait is having fun in the show because the cast and crew have been a delight to work with, she said.

“I love being with theater people. ‘There’s no people like show people,’” she said. “To just show up every night with people you love to create art with, to just delve into a character and try to be real with it, to try to be in the moment and authentic, there’s a real joy to that. I can be really tired and show up at that rehearsal and I’m energized.”

Audiences familiar with Limelight’s proscenium stage will be delighted to see it has been reconfigured to be a three-quarters in the round stage, enabling people to sit around the set and feel as if they are part of the show, Higgins said. Public health considerations for COVID-19 will be in place during the performances. About 50 seats will be available.

“The audience will get a really intimate experience,” she said. “They’ll be up-close and personal with, of course, safe distancing. They’ll be able to see the actors’ expressions really well. They’ll feel like they’re actually in the room.”

Marty Cheek