Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
By Andrew Bergman
Directed by Phil Shepherd
Social Security is a light comedy by Andrew Bergman, who is better known as a screenwriter. New York magazine in 1985 dubbed him “The Unknown King Of Comedy.” There’s not much meat to the story, however there are plenty of smart one-liners much enjoyed by both actors and audience.
In Act 1 we meet Manhattan art dealer “David Kahn”, smoothly played by Roger Larson, and his perfectly groomed wife “Barbara” in their expensive East Side apartment. Candace Luciano is excellent as the stressed perfectionist Barbara, and we soon understand that there is no room in their marriage for children, animals or difficult in-laws or other relatives. Any problem can always be solved with the check book. The author spends a long time setting the scene, as urbane David and beautiful Barbara wonder why her sister “Trudy” and accountant husband “Martin” are coming all the way from Mineola on Long Island for some special reason. When they arrive, we discover that this suburban couple, without much taste or money, are stuck with Barbara and Trudy’s mother “Sophie” who is described by Trudy as a demanding, selfish old woman from hell.
Georgette Richmond does a great job portraying the chronically depressed Trudy, while Zane Pumiglia is entirely convincing as henpecked Martin. They are dumping Sophie on David and Barbara, while they fly to rescue their sex-crazed daughter who is doing unmentionable things (all of which are mentioned) in Buffalo. At the end of the Act, Sophie stomps in with a walker. This must ring a bell with many in the audience, and we fear what is to come.
Actually the old lady, played with twinkling humor by Phyllis Silverman, seems reasonably sane in Act 2 except for a few idiosyncrasies like spitting out sour balls in the Pernod sauce. There’s a very funny scene when a famous 98-year-old painter is about to arrive for dinner, and Sophie is in her frumpy housecoat. Barbara begs her to get dressed and take off the housecoat, which she does on stage revealing her even more frumpy underwear. Then the aged painter “Maurice Koenig,” played with distinction by Pierre Blackburn, arrives and is immediately bundled into the closet.
This is the stuff of farce, handled with great timing by a strong cast. Sophie throws away her walker and falls in love with Maurice. The play is really a glorified sitcom with a message that it’s never too late for love, particularly if your lover is very wealthy and 98 years old. Martin dumps Trudy for the widow of the local vet, and all ends happily except for Trudy who probably likes to be miserable.
The acting was extremely good, and the audience was appreciative on the evening I attended. I congratulate first-time director Phil Shepherd on getting the best from his cast, and moving the play along with excellent pace. The beautiful set was designed by Dana Douin and Ann Swiston. Win McIntosh was Stage Manager and Sandy Jakubek was Production Assistant. This was an entertaining play with a lot of laughs – a happy end to a successful Season 49.