Friday, August 02, 2013
Minnesota Fringe Festival - Review - A Certain Age - A Certain Audience Is Gonna Love This One
I enjoyed A Certain Age but Mom was transported by it. She was making audible noises of affirmation to the action and things being said on stage throughout. As the applause began at the curtain call, she said, "Delightful!" She talked to the director, the writer and any of the actors who passed in the lobby to tell them just how much she enjoyed it. She doesn't do that with every show. She even admitting to tearing up in several places. "I didn't just relate to those women. I was those women at different points in my life."
A Certain Age had the largest house of any Fringe show we saw yesterday, and that was at 5:30 on a Thursday night. People turned out for this thing - more specifically, women of a certain age turned out for this thing. And if the number of audience reviews already on the Fringe website less than a day later are any indication, word of mouth is moving fast on this one. Though everyone can certainly appreciate the humor in this show, women in particular are its target audience. I often write about how important it is that people be able to see themselves reflected onstage in the stories being told. Certain segments of the audience for A Certain Age are clearly responding strongly to it because these stories don't get told or seen by them nearly enough. Lucky is the Fringe show that taps into a previously unrealized audience need. A Certain Age may be that lucky.
"All right. I'm here. Bring on the inner peace!"
A Certain Age is written by Jennifer Cockerill with music by Andrew Cooke, directed by Elena Giannetti. The two actresses in the ensemble - Teri Parker-Brown and Shelli Place - do all the talking here. The third member of the ensemble - Richard Weber - is largely silent. He assists with a lot of the scene and costume changes, and is the object of more than a little objectification, but hey, it's the ladies' turn in this Fringe outing, so have at it. (Watch for the ass grab and wink at the end of the curtain call.)
"Do you have to answer everything with a question?"
"Does that bother you?"
The script is a series of vignettes related by subject matter more than plot or character. Parker-Brown and Place portray a series of women who find themselves arriving at middle age wondering how the heck they got there, what the heck they're doing, and what the heck happens next? Personally, the end of the show would have packed more punch for me if they'd found a way to link this assortment of stories together with some sort of through line or ongoing characters. As it was, I felt like I had to start and stop repeatedly, reinvesting myself in new people each time the scene changed, rather than having some kind of cumulative emotional or intellectual experience.
Mom, too, was at first disappointed that she didn't have someone to follow through the show, but that feeling quickly passed for her. The actresses themselves were both enormously winning personalities onstage, so Mom followed them, and felt rewarded for it.
"Wanna jazz up your coffee?"
For instance, Mom saw herself in the comedic yoga class sequence at not one, but two points in her life. In the scene, one harried woman treats us to her inner monologue via voiceover piped in over the sound system. She finds it impossible to clear her mind, and the jumble of thoughts in there is hilarious. Mom remembers thinking about all the things she had to do after class as well, rather than focusing on being present in the class and doing something for herself. She had that kind of wandering mind when my brother and I were kids and she was raising us alone after the divorce. She also had that split focus in recent years, just barely able to still a little time at the gym as she cared for her own aging mother.
"Now I get excited for parent/teacher conferences because I get a chance to dress up."
The various scenes showed women confused, women competing, women supporting each other, women wondering who exactly they were doing all these things for (like working out), women deciding to focus on the half of life still ahead of them, rather than the half of life they just left behind.
"No one held a gun to my head and said, 'No, you may not have a life.'"
Is some of the dialogue a little on the nose? Yeah, but the audience really didn't care. They were happy to spend time with these women. They were happy these things were being said out loud. They were happy these things were being set to music and sung about. It's easy for everyone to like A Certain Age. But some people (my Mom included) are going to absolutely love it.
4 stars, Highly Recommended
Next performance, Sunday 8/4 at 8:30pm
Check out their Fringe show page for more information