In the tepid comedy, Ripchord, Abby Binder (Holland Taylor) and Marilyn Dunne (Marylouise Burke) are roommates in an elderly residence home. Marilyn, friendly and gregarious, has recently moved into the room much to the chagrin of Abby, who wants nothing more then to be left alone in quietude. Like oil and vinegar the two do not mix well, at least according to Abby. Marilyn, seemingly always positive-minded, has no problem with the living arrangements. Each of the women want something—Abby to be left alone and Marilyn to have the bed by the window. Eventually a bet is wagered with the winner getting their wish. Brought into the fray, in some fashion, is the facility attendant, Scotty (Nate Miller), Marilyn’s daughter Colleen (Rachel Dratch) and son-in-law Derek (Daoud Heidami) and a surprising gentleman caller.
Playwright David-Lindsay-Abaire, who has created such impressive dramatic pieces as Rabbit Hole and Good People, has crafted a show that is intermittently amusing. The two protagonists are ready for battle, but are not always properly armed. The play is at its best when Abby and Marilyn are trading barbs and lobbing insults at each other. However, the stinging sarcasm and back and forth repartee is inconsistently funny. The incorporation of Marilyn’s daughter and her husband do liven up the show, producing a steady stream of smiles and chuckling. Also, for such a small-scale production there are quite a few set pieces that, again, are hit or miss on the humor meter.
You would expect the set-up of Ripchord to be perfectly suited for the talents of Director David Hyde Pierce. His sibling rivalry and battles on the television show Frasier were priceless. In the Broadway comedy, La Bete, his verbal joustings with Mark Rylance were absolutely hysterical. Here, unfortunately, the pacing is more off then on, which has the tendency of the darts and arrows between the two female leads to miss their target more often then not. Hyde Pierce is more successful producing laughs when the featured players join in the fracas.
The cast, for the most part, is superb. Holland Taylor, no slouch when dishing out razor-edged quips and well-appointed bon mots, gives Abby a no-nonsense attitude and laser sharpened glare. She convincingly portrays her character as a self-absorbed bully, but also a woman that has deep life wounds. In contrast, Marylouise Burke is effervescent and literally bounces about the stage. While outwardly cheerful and playful she also gives us a layer of sadness that rounds out her mostly high-spirited character. Both women are also up to the bits of physical humor the production demands. The supporting team of Rachel Dratch and Daoud Heidami are terrific. Every time they appear on stage the twosome provide a needed spark and a dollop of lunacy to the show.
Ripchord, at City Center in New York through December 6th.