REVIEWS ARE IN!
SELLS A WINNING WHIMSY...IN SCHWARTZ'S (WHO GAVE US GILLIGAN’S
ISLAND and THE BRADY BUNCH) FREEWHEELING, INNOCENT STYLE OF COMEDY”.
SHERWOOD SCHWARTZ’ ZESTY ONE LINES PERMEATE “ROCKERS”,
AN OFTEN HILARIOUS LOOK AT THE LIVES OF THREE ELDERLY WOMEN...SOME
SERIOUS MOMENTS OFFER A NICE COUNTERBALANCE TO THE GENERAL ZANINESS." Variety
“LEE MERIWETHER’S LOUELLA
EXUDES A TOTALLY CAPTIVATING CLUELESS GENTILITY. ” Variety
ELSA “RAVEN’S ROSE IS SO
ADEPT AT THE WELL-TIMED ONE-LINER THAT IT SOUNDS AS IF SHE HAS
SPENT CONSIDERABLE TIME ON THE BORSCHT BELT.”
"HILARIOUS...HARD TO RESIST"...and
SIT BACK, LET THE GIRLS ROCK AWAY AS YOU LAUGH AND DELIGHT. ShowMag
"ONE CAN LAUGH, SHED A TEAR,
AND OVERALL, HAVE A GREAT TIME IN THE THEATER WITH A REAL GROUP
OF 'GOLDEN GIRLS" ....and "MUCH CHARM AND LAUGHS
AND GENUINE WIT." Accessibly Live
“PAT CRAWFORD BROWN IS HILARIOUSLY
CAUSTIC…JACK KUTCHER IS A RIOT!” The Tolucan
sells a winning whimsy
retirement hotel residents are daffily off their "Rockers"
in Sherwood Schwartz's comedy at Theatre West.
90, the veteran Schwartz (who gave us "Gilligan's Island"
and "The Brady Bunch") can still sling retro Borscht
Belt groaners with authority. "Those eggs," grumbles
the curmudgeonly Irish Kate (Pat Crawford Brown) about the home's
institutional food, "no self-respecting hen would admit to
(Elsa Raven) is given to Yiddish-flavored one-liners ("Worrying
is a mother's job — if they didn't worry they'd be fathers").
Rounding out the trio is Lee Meriwether's Louella, a pitch-perfect
bubble-headed Southern belle. When Rose asks why God doesn't take
her instead of another gravely ill character, Louella chirps a
comforting "maybe He will."
character definition by way of punch line, and under Marcia Rodd's
affectionate direction the three actresses all demonstrate the
chops to sell it. The primary appeal here is to fans of the freewheeling,
innocent style of comedy Schwartz honed as head writer for "The
Red Skelton Show."
few serious themes ripple across the surface — mortality,
aging, parental tensions between Rose and her daughter (Arden
Teresa Lewis) — but seldom bog down the whimsical tone.
take a decidedly highbrow turn with a visit from Rose's son (Matthew
Hoffman), an actor who's just been cast in an off-off-Broadway
production of "King Lear." His big break affords an
opening for the three leads to play Lear's daughters in an impromptu
bit of clowning. Sure it's contrived, but some sort of nod to
Shakespeare has been a Schwartz signature since Gilligan and the
castaways staged a musical version of "Hamlet" (the
Skipper remains the definitive Polonius). The "Lear"
scene here doesn't rise to that pinnacle, but it's reassuring
to see a fine tradition upheld nonetheless.
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays
and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 10. $20. (323) 851-7977
or www.theatrewest.org. Running time: 2 hours.
By JULIO MARTINEZ
scripter Sherwood Schwartz (celebrating his 90th birthday) honed
his zinger skills as head writer on such TV variety and sitcom
fare as "The Red Skelton Show" and "The Joan Davis
Show." His zesty one-liners permeate "Rockers,"
an often hilarious look at the lives of three elderly women living
in the Garden Palace Retirement Home just outside Gotham. Helmer
Marcia Rodd is thoroughly in sync with Schwartz's sitcom rhythms,
guiding a talented ensemble that instills impressive levels of
character depth in their comedic personas. Ruling over the front-porch
rocking chairs of their haven for the aged are relentlessly grumpy
Irish-American Kate (Pat Crawford Brown), yenta-to-the-hilt Rose
(Elsa Raven) and Louella (Lee Meriwether), the ultimate ditzy
Rodd balance the action effectively, giving each of these divas
ample opportunity to offer her colorful perspective on herself
and her compatriots in repose, the staff of their group "home"
and the well-meaning but hapless kin who come to visit. They also
level prickly barbs at the other residents, including would-be
lothario Mr. Fletcher (Jack Kutcher).
is the ultimate curmudgeon, finding fault with everything from
the retirement home's menu to the placement of her chair on the
porch. Raven's Rose is so adept at the well-timed one-liner that
it sounds as if she spent considerable time on the Borscht Belt
circuit. Meriwether's Louella exudes a totally captivating clueless
gentility. When Rose rants at God, asking why He took another
elderly resident instead of her, Louella offers a sympathetic
and heartfelt, "Maybe he will."
moments offer a nice counterbalance to the general zaniness. Kate's
daughter Peggy, played with an amalgam of guilt and staunch resolve
by Arden Teresa Lewis, denies her mother's request to live with
her so that she can continue to love her. Louella's successful,
globetrotting son is too busy to spend time with his mother.
of the production is the arrival of Rose's son Marty (Matthew
Hoffman), an actor about to go into rehearsal in a way Off Broadway
staging of "King Lear." Rose's reaction is a dismissive,
"Shakespeare was good, but he was no Neil Simon!" But
it gives the ladies a great opportunity to clown their way through
a farcical introduction to Lear's three daughters.
the shenanigans of these three grand old dames is Joseph M. Altadonna
and Daniel Keough's spacious front-porch setting, highlighted
by Yancey Dunham's realistic, sun-drenched lighting.
Sherwood Schwartz tell us that he received his inspiration
to pen Rockers from some words of Shalom Alecheim: "...And
God grew weary of everybody complaining about their problems,
and he said to them, 'Put your problems in a bag and hang it on
one of those pegs on the wall.' And everybody did as God commanded.
Then God said, 'Now each of you go up to the wall and take any
bag, and that problem will become your problem.' And everybody
went up to the wall and took his own bag..."
In this West coast premiere which opened November 10 at Theatre
West for a four week run, the venerable Schwartz (90) takes us
to the Garden Palace Retirement Hotel outside of New York City
to view the ongoing complaints, insights, and, especially, good-natured
antics of three of its residents. They may be old, but they all
maintain their sense of humor and an upbeat sense of purpose.
You'll meet Rose (Elsa Raven) and the scarf she's knitting for
a giraffe; Kate (Pat Crawford Brown) and her complaints about
the food, service and the other guests: "The eggs they serve
here no self-respecting hen would admit to laying them";
and Louella (former Miss America, Lee Meriwether) the belle
of the South whose sweetness may make you diabetic.
The supporting cast of Matthew Hoffman as Rose's son Marty, Arden
Teresa Lewis as Peggy, Kate's daughter who refuses to allow her
mother to come live with her so that she can continue to love
her; George Spelvin as William, Louella's very busy son who makes
a brief stop en route to Europe to see his mother; and, Jack Kutcher
as Mr. Fletcher, a cameo role, doing his morning stroll about
the hotel; his two-step creates the sarcastic, "Mr. Fletcher,
where are you running to?"
Schwartz is a veteran of seven decades of comedy writing and the
master of the one-liners and they come quite steadily here:
I'd like to get into your pants!" Response: "Sorry,
there's only room for one butt here!"
a four letter word for an Indian dress?" Response: "Sari."
"Forget about being sorry and tell me what it is!"
had no talent for showbiz." Response: "Who told
you that?" "Everybody!" (Old joke.)
The set for this Theatre West production is quite lovely: Designed
by Joseph M. Altadonna and Daniel Keough, they are deserving of
large kudos. Yancey Dunham's lighting design retains our interest
for its bright enough without the glare of daylight. And a round
of applause for Marcia Rodd's superb direction in keeping our
focus both on and away from those ever-present, huge rocking chairs
on center stage. I liked the scrim showing the emerging presence
of one or another of the ladies as they made their way from inside
the house to the outside porch.
The audience in attendance on the day we were there could rival
our three stars in age. Their reaction told me they were responding
wholly to so much of the dialogue they were hearing and the resonance
levels were quite high, indeed. But I truly don't think you have
to be a senior citizen to enjoy the hilarious, meaningful repartee
issuing from the characters on stage. Schwartz's jokes are hard
to resist. In discussing Shakespeare, mother Rose says, "Shakespeare
was good, but he was no Neil Simon!"
is a play to sit back, let the girls rock away as you laugh and
delight during its rapid, two hour run.
Rockers, by Sherwood Schwartz Theatre
West 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90068
Tel. 323-851-7977 Plays Friday & Saturday @ 8:00
p.m.; Sunday @ 2:00 p.m.
Admission $20; Seniors $15, Students $5 November 10-December
presents ROCKERS, Sherwood Schwartz' comic play of three women
living in their retirement community who deal with their children,
their little dilemmas, and each other, makes its west coast premier.
is the front porch of the Garden Palace Retirement Hotel, a nice
little place where one can spend their sunset years. Three women
call this place home. There's Kate (Pat Crawford Brown), an Irish
lass who can be pleasant providing that she doesn't get her "Irish"
up, Rose (Elsa Raven), a sweeter and gentler "Bubbie"
type, and Louella (Lee Meriwether), a southern belle fresh as
a mint julep. Every Sunday, these three spend the day on their
porch while Rose and Kate await for their grown children to pay
a weekly visit. Kate has a daughter Peggy (Arden Teresa Lewis)
a buyer for a retail store, and Rose has her son Marty (Matthew
Hoffman), an actor. Among these visits, as well as life around
the retirement home, Kate, Rose, and Louella face many of the
elements that occur within their lives, from Kate wanting to live
with her daughter and granddaughter, to Rose wanting the best
for her son, to Louella who speaks about her son William taking
her out of the hotel to her own condo in Florida. These three
talk, bicker, and agree with each other as much as they disagree.
It's just another Sunday on the front porch around the old homestead!
has as much charm and laughs one can expect in such a work. The
three leads do justice within their roles, playing their parts
in a way that anyone who had a mother and/or grandmother could
relate to. Playwright Sherwood Schwartz, who has been writing
for radio and television for generations, creates many witty situations
and some funny one-liners that make this an old fashion comedy
that unitizes genuine wit rather than relying upon "cheap"
laughs! Besides content and performance, Joseph M. Altadonna and
Daniel Keough's set design presents a bright front porch of the
home where rocking away can pass the time away, if not presenting
this activity as downright fun!
Also in the
cast is Jack Kutcher as Mr. Fletcher, one of the few men living
in the hotel, and George Spelvin as William.
by Marcia Rodd, ROCKERS does indeed "rock"! One can
laugh, shed a tear, and overall, have a great time in the theater
with a real group of "golden girls"!
play marks Sherwood Schwartz' 90th birthday celebration! He's
been writing comedy for 65+ years, and still has yet to run out
of ideas! Many of the greats in comedy such as Bob Hope and George
Burns lived to see their century mark! Since Sherwood was a writer
for both of these comic legions, we can look forward to more plays
from this man for many years to come!
~ Rich Borowy
at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles (Universal City),
until December 10th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights
@ 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons @ 2:00 PM. Reservations and information,
call (323) 851-7977. Visit the website at http://www.theatrewest.org