So . . . if light-hearted comedy with a bit of sexual repartee is your cup of tea, head on out to Morro Bay for By the Sea Productions’ first full-length show in two years: Andrew Bergman’s Social Security.
Six greatly talented actors make this 1985 romp a better experience than the play itself, which is mired in pre-internet mores and last-century ideas of who should be with whom and why. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying how the players individually and collectively relate to each other and to the two topics of conversation in this two-act production: the adventures of a daughter off to college, and what to do with an aging parent who drives both her daughters—and their husbands—crazy.
Of course, these plot points aren’t really the point of the show’s witty barbs and observations, such as one character’s complaint about a long-distance phone bill of $500. When’s the last time you even heard the phrase “long distance”? Rather, they serve as fodder for the characters to move from talking about relationships to doing something about them.
Director Lisa Woske, who always gives her actors room to explore and invigorate their roles, ably guides David Rousseve and Sholly Von Stein (as childless couple David and Barbara) from first act complaints about Barbara’s mother (her coughing, her hips, her sourball candies) to Barbara’s revealing insight in Act II: “All we do is comment on everything.” Rousseve and Von Stein are both comfortable in their roles, and when they move from talk to action (tango, anyone?) they prove how immensely likable they are.
Actually, everyone in this production is comfortable—and likable, even when their roles aren’t written that way—making the audience feel comfy with everyone as well. When Barbara’s widowed mother Sophie (played by a genial Janice Peters, despite all the complaints about her character before she ever steps foot on stage) takes up with nonagenarian artist Maurice, her other daughter Trudy pronounces it “disgusting.” But there’s room to like the uptight Trudy (Debora Schwartz, who delivers that line, and many others, like no one else could), as well as her accountant husband Martin (a delightful Greg DeMartini, comfortable wearing an ill-fitting suit like no one else could), who declares his wife a “cool goddess” even when we’re pretty sure she isn’t. He also gets a hearty laugh from verbal mix-ups such as confusing his daughter’s supposed ménage à trois with a menagerie.
Actually, many of the funniest moments in this production come from the unspoken reactions of the characters to situations, such as the idea of Barbara’s widowed mother Sophie dating again. Rousseve’s ability to do a double- and even triple-take without saying a word is priceless. And beret-wearing Maurice (newcomer Larry Bolef, who slips into his role effortlessly) obviously inspires a revitalization in Sophie, who shows up near the end of the show radiant in her own beret.
Productions like this don’t come off as seamlessly as this one without the support of a dedicated behind-the-scenes crew. Special mention goes to stage manager Rhonda Crowfoot, who’s so good (make that “comfortable” as well) in her role that she has time to read the newspaper between scenes. Lights and sound by Sam Gottlieb and Jatzibe Sandoval are flawless given the limitations of the hall.
With the availability of cast and crew members like those of Social Security, By the Sea Productions should take on some meatier productions that give these talented volunteers an even greater chance to shine.
Social Security, a By the Sea Productions presentation, is on stage now through July 10 at St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church Hall, 545 Shasta Avenue, Morro Bay. More Information.