Review: In Good Company’s ‘Kalamazoo,’ an older generation gets the relationship laughs for a change
I’ve never seen a bed get an ovation until “Kalamazoo.”
But it happened: There was wild applause and laughter from the 2nd Space Theatre audience when the stage crew rolled out the hotel-room bed at the start of the third scene.
Was there anything notably out of the ordinary about said bed? No. It was, well, a bed, complete with a standard bedspread that wouldn’t be out of place in any Holiday Inn Express across the land. Here was a crisp, generic symbol of an on-demand society in which one can plop down a credit card, fumble with a key card, stagger into a floor plan you already know by heart, and then sleep.
THE MUNRO REVIEW ON CMAC: Ameila Ryan and Kristin Lyn Crase discuss ‘Kalamazoo’
Or do other stuff while, um, not sleeping.
It’s the possibility of that other stuff that tickled the funny bones of the Sunday matinee audience with whom I saw this cheery, engaging, very well acted Good Company Players show, which runs through April 16. (And I am talking about legitimate hooting and hollering, not just polite laughter.) The first scene of “Kalamazoo” brings together two lonely 70-ish somethings, Peg and Irv (Amelia Ryan and Noel Adams), who meet on a dating website geared to those who know their monthly Social Security payments by heart. After a first date that lurches from promising to pathetic and then back to promising again – partially thanks to outrageously large margaritas – the couple advance to the next step in their nascent relationship: waking up together in an indistinct hotel room, the corporate brand of which eludes them in their first foggy moments of the morning.
The audience ate it up.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt the storyline’s appeal when we discover how different Peg and Irv are: He’s more reserved. She’s a bit of a loudmouth. He is Jewish; she is Catholic. (This powers some surprisingly pointed jokes about religion.) He wants guaranteed intimacy. She’s more of a prude (at first). She loves birds. He learns to love birds, or at least like them, which is part of what being in love is all about, right?
Playwrights Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger have a breezy and non-cringe-worthy command of the material. I’m not sure of their ages, but the lingo and references are smooth, and the characters’ occasional discomfort with the digital age is amusing but not overly exaggerated. (A funny thing about older people: They’re smarter and more adaptable than many might think.) Having two veteran actors in these roles doesn’t hurt, either. The “Do you remember what we did last night?” trope – a reliable staple of romantic comedies – comes across as fresh and funny.
Kristin Lyn Crase, in a winning directorial debut, deftly balances the broadness of much of the comedy with the nicely layered sentimentality of the script.
I’m used to seeing Ryan in more dramatic roles, and it’s a treat to hear her expertly land her punchlines. (“I have five wonderful daughters,” she tells the audience. “Well, four.”) Her character’s pineapple upside-down-cake meltdown is a gooey acting treat. Same goes for Adams, who is often cast in serious secondary parts. To see his character wryly tackle the brave new world of dating can make you wince – yet also root for him.
“Kalamazoo” isn’t the most groundbreaking piece of theater you’ll see all year, and it occasionally falls into a lazy, sitcom rhythm. But I particularly like it because it knows what it wants to do – and it does it well. The laughs flow easily and often. There’s tenderness, too. When Irv admits he’s tired of going home to an empty house, the woman in the audience sitting in front of me gave one of those involuntarily deep, tragic sighs of recognition that made me want to give her a big hug.
And then, a few minutes later, she was laughing hard enough to pop her buttons.
Perhaps that’s the lesson of “Kalamazoo.” Life is about bouncing back. Even if you sometimes slip up and call it “The Facebook.”
Thank you, Donald. Enjoyed this review immensely. Was already looking forward to seeing the play, and now really can’t wait. Sure appreciate you keeping us up to date in all the best ways