‘Ripcord’ is funny slapstick tale of two woman skirmishing

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★★☆

Abby (Laura Jorgensen, center) is shocked by caregiver Scotty (Kyle Stoner, left) and roomie Marilyn (Kate Brickley) in “Ripcord.” Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Pit a perma-sourpuss against her perpetually cheery roomie in their assisted-living facility and what do you get?

Nearly 90 minutes of laugh-out-loud belly laughs.

And a schmaltzy second-act happy-ending preceded by a smidgeon of almost saccharine pathos.

At least that’s what you find when the play’s penned by David Lindsay-Abraire, a Pulitzer Prize winner for “Rabbit Hole” who ran to the other end of the gamut by writing book and lyrics for “Shrek the Musical.”

In Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater production, Equity actor Kate Brickley plays Marilyn, the upbeat elder who sports bunny slippers, with indelible vigor and incredible verbal comedic dexterity.

Her downbeat adversary is Abby (Laura Jorgensen, who uses a terrifically grouchy look and more than a tad of physical elasticity to great advantage, especially in a scene in which she’s been drugged).

Acting as a go-between peacemaker is caregiver/wannabe actor Scotty (Kyle Stoner), whose comedy finesse equals that of the two females.

Marilyn (Kate Brickley) reacts to hilarious mock electrocution of Scotty (Kyle Stoner) in Halloween Haunted House. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Lindsay-Abraire tends to make their efforts easy by providing too many highly amusing highlights to list. But I particularly adore scenes featuring two 125-mph sky-diving duos, a mock holdup on a park bench and a mock suicide, and gruesome characters that cavort in a Halloween Haunted House.

In effect, the 50-year-old playwright relies on low but hilarious, anti-cerebral humor. Slapstick reigns supreme.

No resemblance here to the writings of Tom Stoppard or Samuel Beckett (except via an overlay of familial relationships). “Ripcord” reminds me, rather, of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” and half a dozen “I Love Lucy” TV episodes.

I also appreciate director James Pelican’s attention to pinpoint timing and full use of the stage, and Donnie Frank’s wide range of costuming.

I love, too, the clever scene-changing device of a sheet-like curtain pulled from side to side by a swift-moving stagehand.

All that clearly is valued by the opening night audience (about a third of which consists of acting students) — so much so, in fact, that many applaud not only at the final curtain but individual scenes.

I find it ironic seeing the fluffy “Ripcord” that evening.

The comedy works as an exquisite distraction from the heaviness of the U.S. Senate rejecting witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, which happened only minutes before the show’s start.

The plot of “Ripcord,” by the way, revolves around an apparently innocuous bet proposed by Marilyn and accepted by Abby, a wager about fear and anger that results in spiraling hysterically funny one-upmanship.

In keeping with that theme, would I recommend that you catch this production?

You bet.

“Ripcord” runs at the Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., right off Hwy. 101, through Feb. 16. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $20 to $35. Information: (707) 763-8920 or http://cinnabartheater.org.

Contact Woody Weingarten, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →