Mid-Life 2 at Actors' Playhouse Preaches to the Aging Choir
There's likely no nicer stage on which to present a play than the Balcony Theatre at the Actors' Playhouse on Miracle Mile. It purveys a sense of both intimacy and expanse, thanks to ample seating and a stage that allows for any number of up-close possibilities. It's also been home to some of the liveliest and most topical productions Actors' Playhouse has ever offered, among them, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, Menopause the Musical, and Rated P for Parenthood. Granted, we're not talking weighty artistic fare here, or any abundance of gravitas or philosophical reflection. But if all you're after is a few easy laughs, combined with a little mirth and merriment, then this is your place to be.
courtesy of Actors' Playhouse The cast of "Mid-Life 2!": Sufficiently muddled and befuddled
The latest offering in that upstairs venue is the world premiere of Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues), a sequel of sorts to the first Mid-Life musical the theater staged some six years ago. This time around, Actors' Playhouse is taking an active role in developing the show for further stagings around the nation, including, hopefully, an eventual Off Broadway run. Acting as a producing partner is a significant development for any regional theater, particularly Actors' Playhouse, which has currently assumed the mantle of a major player over the last ten years.
Consequently, Mid-Life 2 could be considered a work in progress, a fact evident by some long lapses in the punchlines and the barebones musical accompaniment supplied by the Playhouse's ever-reliable musical director David Nagy. The premise is somewhat predictable. Like most of the entries that grace the balcony stage, it deals with everyday maladies that inevitably accompany aging, themes all too common to all those productions previously mentioned. People of a certain age apparently like to laugh at themselves, especially when they can relate to the scenarios that ultimately unfold.
All too predictably then, the audience is treated to songs and skits about forgetfulness, the discovery of skin tags, the need for Viagra, senior discounts, and the general difficulties and irritations of dealing with an ever increasing assault of physical and mental maladies. It makes for easy laughs, of course, as presumably the audience finds topics with which they can relate, and then chuckle or snicker accordingly. Older folks are often an easy target, and any tune about losing hair only to have it suddenly turn up in their ears, or a song that laments an onset of memory loss, particularly when it's sung by someone who's looking for a pair of glasses that are perched upon his brow, makes for a good gag for the grandparents. But when the main prerequisite for the six person cast is the ability to act muddled and befuddled, the overriding theme is hammered in at the outset.
It's a credit to the cast -- Allan Baker, Maribeth Graham, Margot Moreland, Lourelene Snedeker, Wayne Steadman, and Barry J. Tarallo -- as well as director David Arisco, a master of blending schtick and slapstick, that the material works as well as it does. Each of the actors are fine singers and clearly capable of the mugging and mimicry that the musical requires. Baker is particularly effective, and in coming across like a curmudgeonly version of Jay Leno, he practically steals every scene he's in. Watching him and Tarallo twitter nervously about the unfortunate after-effects of performance enhancing medications is, in itself, practically worth the cost of admission. It's a guilty pleasure, but a hoot nevertheless.