Monday, April 16, 2018

Review of "Second Chance"

Jack, a senior citizen seemingly uninterested in much, lives alone in a small apartment, content to watch his beloved Yankees on television and live out his years.  His son, a well-to-do lawyer, convinces him to move to an assisted living facility.  Resistant at first, Jack quickly learns to love his new surroundings, thanks to the 4 to 1 ratio of women to men.  He becomes more active, especially with the lady folk, is less a curmudgeon, and develops a whole new outlook on life.  So, begins Mike Vogel’s uneven, somewhat humorous outlook on growing old.  All is not great, though, as Jack’s relationship with his only child is strained and his libido, while still active – at one point asking his son if he thinks Medicare covers the cost of Viagra – is not what it used to be.  Still, even with his bouts of forgetfulness, the arthritic pain in his shoulder, and his difficulties to commitment Jack is able to amicably resolve his problems and pursue life with vim and vigor.

Playwright Mike Vogel has crafted a diverting story that will have aged theater-goers and their children nodding in understanding.  These are significant and timely issues being portrayed and even though the overall thrust of the play is more genteel and limited there is food for thought within the text.  The characters the playwright has created are, for the most part, interesting, but they lack depth, are one-dimensional, and don’t necessarily mesh as a cohesive whole. 

The cast, in general, is adept and comfortable in their roles.  Paul D’Amato, as Jack, demonstrates older Americans don’t need to disassociate themselves from the world, no matter what their age.  He is sufficiently crusty and undergoes a convincing transformation from apathetic curmudgeon to the darling of the ball.  Marina Re, who portrays Jack’s love interest, Violet Amanda, adds a bit of zing to the production with her flamboyant outbursts and predatory motives.  Amanda Kristin Nichols as Malka, a young, single mother from Russia, who is one of the facility’s helpful aides, gives the most well-rounded, balanced performance.  The actress is expressive, hot-headed, and caring as she interacts with the residents.  Warren Kelly as Chet, the uber male of the complex until Jack shows up, delivers true comic moments that produce the most laughs during the show.  Jack Lafferty, who plays the son, Larry, needs to invigorate his role with more nuance and commitment.  His exhortations of fatherly compassion and love just don’t ring true.

There is a meandering flow to Director Russell Treyz’s pacing of the show, which can come across as somewhat choppy.  A more tightly structured staging would have given the production a better rhythm.   There is a noticeable lack of chemistry between Jack and Larry and their age difference just doesn’t add up and comes across as awkward. The requisite shouting showdowns between father and son, girlfriend and beau towards the end of the play come across as hollow and forced.  There are some enjoyable and finely tuned moments by the assorted characters, most notably the comic embellishments offered by Warren Kelly as Chet.

Second Chance, a mildly entertaining work that, nonetheless, illustrates a critical concern for our aging population.  Playing through April 29th.

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