Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
April 10, 2015
If you’re of a certain age, and your parents are getting up there in years, there comes a time when you need to have the dread discussion about what to do if Mom and Dad can’t take care of themselves at home.
This is the crux of “Sunset Park,” a 2005 serio -comedy by Marley Sims and Elliot Shoenman , longtime TV scriptwriters for shows such as “Home Improvement.”
Seventy-five year-old Evelyn lives alone, and her eternally bickering middle-aged offspring – one married and well-to-do, the other divorced and struggling – alternate Sunday visits. Her best friend, Rose, another widow living in the Brooklyn building for 50 years, is a God-fearing Roman Catholic. Evelyn is a Jewish atheist.
A letter casually left on the kitchen table triggers a protracted series of memories, arguments and admissions. Evelyn’s building is going co-op, and she has to buy or leave. In the family tsunami that follows, it turns out that, predictably, each character has a long-held secret. After a generally amusing first act, Act 2 is a relentless tumble of misconceptions and misunderstandings, revelations and resolutions. It all feels a bit too sitcom pat by the end, a kind of pale shadow of a Neil Simon play, with one-liners masking the serious central issue.
Given a rat-a-tat pace and genuine New York moxie, the piece could fly – and land some gut-wrenching insights about aging, caregiving, inheritance and independence.
Though there’s a comic earnestness about the Scripps Ranch Theatre production, directed by Eric Poppick , the pace is too pokey, and the regional dialect is wildly varying throughout the cast. But the two native New Yorkers – Carm Greco and Brenda Adelman, playing scrappy mother and daughter — naturally nail the accent and attitude. The rest seem to be working so hard at it, the effort interferes with fully inhabited characterizations.
Still, there are some funny and poignant moments – between elderly friends, parent and children, and in flashback, a pliable young Evelyn and her irascible father-in-law, convincingly played by Haig Koshkarian .
The set is a perfect grandma’s place, unchanged for half a century. And the subject matter? Well, it could bring a chill to your aging bones.
“Sunset Park ” runs through April 19, at Scripps Ranch Theatre, on the Campus of Alliant University.
©2015 PAT LAUNER