TWO ONE-ACTS by Rich Orloff
Theatre has a hard enough time when it’s a full-length 2- or 3-act affair, nicely bankrolled, and plush with actors you know and respect.
But like short films of less than feature length, which have to make do with “fill-in” spots between traditionally timed programmes or last-minute plugs for a hastily withdrawn feature, shorts have a tough time getting a head of steam to hit any of the Broadway boards.
Yet they are often great fun, beguiling in different ways, and a good aperitif, to be followed by animated discussion with attendees and even some of the stars in the intimate settings they do find purchase.
At the genteel Gramercy Park venue of the National Arts Club, across from the Gramercy pocket park on the East Side, Rich Orloff, tabbed in the playbill as “one of the most popular unknown playwrights in the country,” is no newcomer to the stage. He’s had more than a dozen full-lengths staged up and down the East Coast, New York to Key West, Phoenix to Milwaukee (not the East Coast, but how to describe that in a two-word kenning?) and has over 70 short plays (mostly comedies) to his credit. It shows.
The two comedies stage-performed (no blocking, just chairs and great acting) homed in on a subject matter not seen very often on the stage or TV: Elder sex.
The first, Mourning Glory, stars Louise Lasser (first wife of the Woodster, and much-liked star of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” back in the 70s) is a 2-character (but for a walk-on by the niece of Louise’s character, Aggie). It takes place at the shiva of Aggie’s husband, and is attended by his “best friend” of 46 years, Milt (Michael Citriniti) (who is frankly, as I told him, a bit too handsome to play the role of a 70-ish/80-ish guy; he laughingly told me he tried to “ugly-up before the play, but it didn’t take”). Long dormant, their innate mutual attraction flowers even amid all the food of the funeral, peppered by nonstop laughs throughout. While Lasser is an hilarious Aggie, a deadpan widow with an acrid tongue, she is not the Lasser of long ago, and it takes a little getting used to.
The second play, Getting Lucky, also offers many laughs, but far more serious considerations of the do-si-do of older people embarking on a sexual liaison after many years and a couple of spouses are long in their permanent rest. Lucky stars the formidable and ever-hilarious stage and screen vet Olympia Dukakis, who is happily much the way we remember her from her Golden Globe-winning turn as Cher’s straight-talking mother in Moonstruck. And dozens of films and theatrical productions since, of course.This play examines the delicate edges of mutual-consent erotica by two decided adults, starring Louis Zorich as Jack, her long-time buddy now interested in…more. (“Long-time,” here is four months, BTW.)
What is refreshing is playwright Orloff’s sensitive exploration of so many of the themes that keep older people frightened, alone, apart, when they yearn for love and comfortable partnering. The direction of both playlets, which might seem a trivial matter but isn’t, by David Glenn Armstrong, evoked the unwavering involvement and laugh-filled attention of the packed audience, most of whom seemed to be of a certain age, themselves.
Cookies and punch followed. But the evening was just as sweet without the carbs.
Almost alone worth joining the National Arts Club for such exemplary and warmth-filled evenings.