×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: ‘Ripcord’ by David Lindsay-Abaire

With:
Marylouise Burke, Rachel Dratch, Glenn Fitzgerald, Daoud Heidami, Nate Miller, Holland Taylor.

The Manhattan Theater Club presumably commissioned “Ripcord” from playwright David Lindsay-Abaire to give their faithful subscription audience a subject dear to their own hearts. The Pulitzer Prize -winning writer (for “Rabbit Hole”) has come up with an amiable if simplistic crowdpleaser, in the form of a duel of wits between “odd couple” roommates in an assisted living facility. Although smartly directed by David Hyde Pierce, the slender sitcom hangs for dear life on the appeal of its engaging stars, Marylouise Burke and Holland Taylor.

Clearly, there’s no Match.com service at the Bristol Place Assisted Living Facility for Seniors in New Jersey, where two incompatible residents have been assigned to share a double room (a sun-filled aerie, courtesy of designers Alexander Dodge and Peter Kaczorowski). The priceless perk of having her own private space is about to end for the emotionally remote and socially patrician Abby Binder (Taylor, to the manner born). Her new roomie, Marilyn Dunne (the irrepressible Burke), is a perky little critter, gregarious and friendly to a fault, the darling of the institution.

Unable to strangle Marilyn with her bare hands, as she’d clearly like to, Abby applies herself to unearthing her roommate’s weakness, the better to torment her into giving up her claim on the second bed. The disingenuous Marilyn is forthcoming with that information, attributing her sunny personality to the fact that she never gets angry.

“There’s really no point,” she says. “It always leads to an ugly place, and I don’t care for ugly places.”

Abby counters that boast by claiming that she’s never frightened — of anything, not even death. “I’d welcome it, most days,” she says.

Armed with this information, Marilyn proposes — and Abby accepts — a bet to see who can make the other cave. Can Abby be cruel enough to make Marilyn lose her good humor and get angry?  Is Marilyn clever enough to make Abby lose her composure and get scared?

Lindsay-Abaire is only sporadically successful at devising dirty tricks that the two women can use to torment one another. The more elaborate sitcom exploits, like a contrived visit to a “haunted” house and a cruel (and dangerous) skydiving stunt — which make functionaries of supporting cast members, including Rachel Dratch — are the least effective, while the simpler, more psychologically subtle ones, like a rigged “suicide” attempt, are much funnier.

The major miscalculation, however, rests in the writer’s one-dimensional depiction of his two major characters, who are clearly intended to charm the audience, not alienate a huge swath of it.

The chilly aloofness that makes Abby behave so unkindly toward her unwanted roommate is also felt by the audience, who can’t help but flinch at her selfishness and cruelty. Marilyn is meant to be the more sympathetic character, a free spirit whose hippie outfits (designed with tongue in cheek by Jennifer von Mayrhauser) attest to her kind and loving heart. And she speaks up for her soulmates when she complains:  “Why can’t people be peculiar anymore?”

But darned if that cheery little busybody doesn’t eventually get on our nerves as much as she does Abby’s. If there’s anything more irritating than a roommate who won’t talk to you, it’s a roommate who won’t shut up.

Popular on Variety

Off Broadway Review: 'Ripcord' by David Lindsay-Abaire

Manhattan Theater Club; 299 seats; $90 top. Opened Oct. 20, 2015. Reviewed Oct. 15. Running time: TWO HOURS.

Production: A Manhattan Theater Club production of a play in two acts by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Creative: Directed by David Hyde Pierce. Sets, Alexander Dodge; costumes, Jennifer von Mayrhauser; lighting, Peter Kaczorowski; original music & sound, John Gromada; fight director, Thomas Schall; production stage manager, Denise Yaney.

Cast: Marylouise Burke, Rachel Dratch, Glenn Fitzgerald, Daoud Heidami, Nate Miller, Holland Taylor.

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content