Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna’s play, “Bermuda Avenue Triangle,” is not the triangle where ships disappear, but a romance with a geometric twist. Two widows, reluctantly transplanted from their separate New York apartments to a shared Las Vegas condo on Bermuda Avenue, are transformed when they fall for a similarly aged con man-cum-gigolo. The transformation isn’t pretty, but it’s funny, thanks mainly to Taylor, who has the delivery, timing and whiny voice to extract a smile from a Taliban.
This is a revival of a comedy written and first produced by Taylor and Bologna in 1997. With co-producer Scott Stander, they are working to build a road tour, possibly beginning in Atlantic City in the summer, with a New York move aimed for late fall.
The first act is all laughter, all the time as the two widows, Tess (Lainie Kazan) and Fannie (Taylor), engage in standup comedy disguised as conversation, and the two daughters who transplanted them make convenient and neurotic foils. Much of the second act is silly, even for a farce, because the characters are more absurd than the events. But the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
Tess and Fannie’s entrance to their new digs is tentative: both wear schmatte-like dresses with hanging hems and clutch their pocketbooks from potential purse-snatchers. Tess, the Italian matriarch, wears shades of gray and a no-nonsense sweater, while Fannie, the Jewish mother, walks slowly on arthritic legs swathed in bandages, one hand locked on her mink and the other holding the tail of Kazan’s skirt like a security blanket. They dismiss the pink and green color scheme of their airy, wicker-furnished condo because it reminds them of Pepto Bismol and Vicks.
Tess, who dreamed of being the Italian Eleanor Roosevelt, “only a Republican with good teeth,” unpacks enough religious statues to fill a church nave; Fannie, whose goal was to be the Jewish Myrna Loy, unpacks an enema. The stalwart, take-charge Tess uses “stoopid” to describe anything she doesn’t understand or approve of, whether it’s her daughter (Anne DeSalvo) or the world in general. Fannie cries at will, moans “I’m no good at growing old,” and screeches like a banshee when her daughter (Rita McKenzie) tries to snatch away the greasy, napkin-wrapped Reuben sandwich squirreled in her purse.
The widows’ transformation from crabbed old age to born-again tootsies is prompted by Taylor’s husband and writing partner, Joe Bologna (the couple also directed), as the charming charlatan and destitute gambler Johnny Paolucci. He inserts himself into their lives and their beds by being attentive, flattering and nimble enough to keep them in the dark about himself and his dalliances with each of them.
The changes wrought include sight gags, where Kazan’s severe gray hairdo switches to flowing red locks, and Taylor’s proletarian print dress is replaced, Cinderella-style, by a white satin and tulle recital costume. But, more interestingly than in the cartoonish second-act costumes, the changes are also evident in the widows’ newfound merriness, their optimism and their energy.
Providing the comic relief in this comedy is Manny Kleinmuntz as the spindly-legged, Bermuda-clad Rabbi Levine, who, as the official greeter for the condo association, can make an “oy vey” sound like anything from a sigh to an expletive.
This is a superficial, sometimes corny, but still sweet show, with the vulgar moments mitigated by Taylor’s giggly delight in her character’s newfound sex life and Kazan’s joy in passion unleashed. The script draws chuckles across the age range. The younger set loved the lewd stuff; boomers, the sandwich generation’s frustration; and the blue-rinse crowd, the been-there shtick.