May 23, 2018

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Calculated comedy checks off correct boxes to connect with baby boomers

From left: Alvin Sanders, Fiona Reid and C. David Johnson in Morning After Grace. (Dylan Hewlett photo)</p></p>

From left: Alvin Sanders, Fiona Reid and C. David Johnson in Morning After Grace. (Dylan Hewlett photo)

Quite literally a situation comedy, American playwright Carey Crim's Morning After Grace kicks off with a circumstance fraught with hilarity potential as 60-something divorcee Abigail (Fiona Reid) wakes up naked from a night of passionate indulgence alongside Angus (C. David Johnson), a handsome, 70-year-old lawyer she barely knows.

More delighted than ashamed, Abigail manages to piece together the circumstances of the hook-up, which took place after she found herself accidentally attending the funeral of a woman she also didn't know.

It's the kind of thing that can happen in a Florida retirement community and comes as no real surprise to Angus, who glibly says to Abigail, "At our age, funerals are better than singles bars."

Abigail calls for a cab, but she is compelled to stay by revelations and further unforeseen circumstances, including the appearance of retired baseball player Otis (Alvin Sanders), who comes offering mysterious moral support to Angus, although he too barely knows him.

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Quite literally a situation comedy, American playwright Carey Crim's Morning After Grace kicks off with a circumstance fraught with hilarity potential as 60-something divorcee Abigail (Fiona Reid) wakes up naked from a night of passionate indulgence alongside Angus (C. David Johnson), a handsome, 70-year-old lawyer she barely knows.

More delighted than ashamed, Abigail manages to piece together the circumstances of the hook-up, which took place after she found herself accidentally attending the funeral of a woman she also didn't know.

It's the kind of thing that can happen in a Florida retirement community and comes as no real surprise to Angus, who glibly says to Abigail, "At our age, funerals are better than singles bars."

Abigail calls for a cab, but she is compelled to stay by revelations and further unforeseen circumstances, including the appearance of retired baseball player Otis (Alvin Sanders), who comes offering mysterious moral support to Angus, although he too barely knows him.

It emerges that Abigail is a counsellor, eager to help Alvin with his own crisis, which takes place at the intersection of his love life and his own embattled family history.

At this point, you may recognize that this review is attempting to avoid spoiling a few of the surprises that pop in the 85-minute comedy (without intermission).

(Dylan Hewlett photo)</p>

(Dylan Hewlett photo)

One wishes Crim herself, whose drama 23.5 Hours played at the RMTC Warehouse in 2016, could have been a tad more conscientious about keeping surprise alive in the play.

Director Krista Jackson is at a loss to prevent the show — very much targeted to older theatre-goers — from feeling more ingratiating than challenging. So while it is refreshing to see senior characters as sexual — and sexy — people, the comedy seems to be checking off boxes calculated to hit the baby boomers in the audience where they live, including a pot-smoking scene that mainly serves as a showcase for Reid's mastery of how to load and fire up a bong. (Very impressive indeed.)

The play features incidental music — including Paul McCartney — but here and there one can occasionally detect a greatest-hits sensibility to the writing, including one scene in which Angus dispenses with a telemarketer in what seems like a replay of a classic scene from TV sitcom Seinfeld.

Still, Reid, who first appeared to Canadian households as Al Waxman's queen in the Canadian sitcom The King of Kensington, and who played the Queen in The Audience on the RMTC mainstage in 2016, provides an irresistible centre to the comedy. Her character may have issues with confidence, but Reid certainly doesn't, and she navigates some tricky turf ranging from how to get dressed onstage without being too revealing and, at the Thursday evening show, how to turn a prop mishap from a potential disaster into a comedy enhancement.

Johnson, also a veteran of Canadian TV (Street Legal), seems less at ease with his admittedly more challenging role: have we ever seen a sexy curmudgeon before?

Sanders, perhaps best known these days as Pop Tate on the TV series Riverdale, provides a little human warmth to offset the chill of the Miami modernist set design by Charlotte Dean.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Read more by Randall King.

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