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Ripcord takes a Bite out of Life with the Playmasters

by Aimee Ferenz


Last night, I attended South Jersey Theatre Critics’ first Pennsylvania review at none other than The Playmasters Theater-Workshop in Neshaminy State Park, Bensalem. This serene location has stood since 1982 but The Playmasters have been sharing their love of theater since 1959. The people who have found a home in The Playmasters are wonderfully kind and excited to share their stories with you, this one being the play Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. This 2016 play follows two older women who share a room in the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. Abby, who has lived there for five years, despises sharing the space and chases out any roommate that she is assigned. When Marilyn moves in, Abby meets her match and is unable to scare her away. They make a bet (that mostly consists of pranking one another) that if Abby can make Marilyn angry, or if Marilyn can scare Abby, they will settle their room squabbles once and for all. 


As always, no play can come together without a dedicated production team. Ripcord is directed by Bill Fikaris, who brings a lovely flow to the story through the comedy on stage. He is accompanied by Dawn Zaleski who stage manages beautifully behind the scenes. Edwin Ortiz (Scenic Design) shows creativity in creating not only a full shared bedroom, but in folding walls that can reset the stage to a new space. His set construction crew includes Tom Dinardo, Bill Fikaris, Kathy Garofano, Rich Hall, Joe Szumila, James Young, and Dawn Zaleski. Fikaris and Zaleski were also accompanied by Garofano in set decoration with plenty of nostalgic photos and personality-driven decorations. Volunteer coordinator Annie White has done a phenomenal job gathering such a crew together to bring the show to life and I am grateful to Bob Clothier and Joey Klinger for getting it all down in the program notes. While costumes and cast portraits are supplied by the ensemble, the program acknowledges that a few pieces were borrowed from Dana Gordon and Stephen Kreal. The work of these incredible people shines throughout the show while the actors have you reeling in your seats.


Abby Binder and Marilyn Dunne share an excellent chemistry, which is no wonder as they are played by Regina Deavitt and Phyllis Josephson. The two have not only worked together before but have a combined performance history spanning decades. This, of course, shows in their impeccable timing and line delivery. They successfully maintain a quick banter and amiable rivalry, even in moments where Abby lashes out. Abby, played by Regina Deavitt, is a cold and difficult woman due to years of heartache, which Deavitt masters early on. With a character like Abby, many of the best moments are not in what she says, but how she reacts to what is said to her. The range of emotions from Deavitt is entertaining throughout the play yet utterly heartbreaking in the show’s final moments. Deavitt is a wonder in this role as she creates a difficult character that we can relate to others in our lives. Phyllis Josephson counters Deavitt sensationally in her depiction of the bubbly Marilyn Dunne. Marilyn’s life has not been much easier than Abby’s, but she has taken the cards dealt to her with a different attitude, which is one of the reasons that Abby develops such an immediate agitation. Josephson is a lighthouse to the weary throughout the role as she rakes in the laughs. While playing the “funny” character, it can be easy to succumb to a level of flatness, but not Marilyn. Josephson shows incredible depth in this role as she too embodies excellence in acting between the lines. The two are a textbook on developing a fully formed character and offer much to be learned by the audience. 


The two are accompanied on stage by their orderly at the living facility, Scotty, played by Zach Martin. Martin brings a lovely liveliness to the role by keeping the pace of a hardworking medical assistant that is constantly on the move. He is charming, energetic, and has an excellent rapport with each member of the cast. Martin also exhibits an impressive range as he has to play an actor who performs at a haunted attraction. The role’s range is extended by Scotty’s acting moments and Martin proves to be up for the test.


The cast is rounded out by three performers who cover a total of nine roles. The range of all three actors is impressive and a necessity with a small cast such as this. Evan Long plays Benjamin, Lewis, and the Clown. Desiree Lara performs as both Colleen and the “Woman in White”, and E. James Young rounds out the cast as Derek, Zombie, Butler, and the masked man. Lara embodied Marilyn’s daughter beautifully, even taking a few of her stage-mother’s character traits and embedding them into her own personality. It deepens their connection and is able to emulate the familial bond. Long and Young also showed the complexity of family ties, one as a son-in-law and the other as an estranged biological son. Both are able to harbor a similar detached relationship with their maternal figure in a heartfelt way.


I believe that Ripcord will be a play that I remember for some time. I love the dynamic differences between the characters, the light hearted trickery, and the complex depiction of modern family life. In this opening night performance, there were a few moments where the pacing left something to be desired, but I am more than happy to chalk it up to opening night jitters. I hope that you will experience the delight of this show for yourself at a future performance, running until June 23rd. Tickets can be purchased online at playmasters.org or at the door.




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