Imagine you’re in your golden years: Would you rather live a life of drab housecoats and sparring with your unhappy adult daughter (and her boring accountant husband), or ditch all that noise for one more shot at love before it’s — not to put too fine a point on it — curtain time?
That question touches on what’s at stake for Sophie, played by Patty Rosen, in Cascades Theatrical Company’s production of “Social Security,” a Broadway comedy about late-life love opening tonight at CTC’s Greenwood Playhouse in Bend (see “If you go”).
Playwright Andrew Bergman’s comedy credentials are undeniable: Bergman, dubbed “The Unknown King of Comedy” by New York Magazine in the 1980s, came up with the story and co-wrote “Blazing Saddles,” and had a hand in the creation of “Fletch,” “Soapdish,” “The Freshman” and “Honeymoon in Vegas,” among others.
Another comedy veteran, Mike Nichols, directed the play when it opened on Broadway in 1986, according to Huffington Post. With CTC’s production, that duty falls to Sandy Silver, who believes comedy is the hardest of acting’s forms.
Imagine then her surprise when Fred Giacomini showed up for an audition. Giacomini had no experience, just interest, in acting when Lana Shane, the theater’s operations manager, presented him to Silver.
“Lana came in and said, ‘There’s a guy in the lobby who wants to know what all this is about. He loves theater, but he’s never been on stage. Can he sit in on an audition?’” Silver says.
“I said, ‘Absolutely.’ So Fred came in, sat down and after a while, I said, ‘So, you think you’d like to give it a go?’
“I had him read for me,” she says, “and he blew me away. He had never, ever, been on stage before.”
Giacomini walked away with a lead role. He plays David, the randy husband to Barbara (Audrey Colton Smith), an art-dealing power couple in Manhattan accustomed to, and far more comfortable with, hosting and hobnobbing with famous artists than, say, spending time with Barbara’s more mundane family out on Long Island.
Who should stop by but Barbara’s sister, Trudy (Gina Osborne) and her husband, Martin (played by Bill Casler). Tension builds as they hem and haw around the reason for leaving their home in Mineola, but these two really hail, the scene makes quite clear, from Squaresville.
It seems the frumpy twosome’s college-aged daughter, Sarah, has been avoiding their helicoptering ways, refusing even to take their twice-daily calls. We never see Sarah, but take it on faith from the slightly creepy David that she is quite physically mature.
Then Martin and Trudy let loose the news that Sarah has been having “menageries,” as Martin calls her trysts with an Irishman and Peruvian, with whom they believe she may or may not be living in Buffalo.
Note: The language here gets quite descriptive, so check your delicate sensibilities at the door.
Q: What does all this have to do with late-life love?
A: We’re getting there. The real reason Buffalo-bound Martin and Trudy are there is to deposit Barbara and Trudy’s mother, Sophie — who, by the way, they make wait in the parked car while they drop this news-bomb on the ill-prepared David and Barbara.
But then Maurice Koenig (Ed Mierjeski), a wealthy nonagenarian artist, comes to dinner.
He’s transfixed, and Sophie is transformed. Could love be an antidote for getting old? Maybe, Bergman’s play suggests.
“It is obviously a comedy, which I think is much-needed now,” director Silver says. “People need to be able to come into the theater and laugh.”
The play, however, also touches on a social theme affecting many in late middle-age: their aging parents.
“As far as the care of an elderly parent, and how you deal with it — I think that’s appropriate now,” she adds. But the main part of the story, she emphasizes, “is to show that you are never too old to fall in love.”
If you go
What: “Social Security”
When: Opens at 7:30 tonight with champagne reception; performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 24
Where: Greenwood Playhouse, 148 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Bend
Cost: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors 60 and older, $12 for students
Contact: www.cascadestheatrical.org or 541-389-0803