Encore Michigan

“Kalamazoo” captures love for any age

Review November 23, 2015 David Kiley

There is a disturbing waste of cupcakes in Kalamazoo, the new production at The Tipping Point Theatre. Given the age of the two actors, you’d think they’d be more mindful of wasting food.

KALAMAZOO--TIPPING-POINTThe play, a two-actor story having its Michigan premiere, is about two seventy-somethings who have hit the Internet at the urging of their adult children to “get out there,” and perhaps meet a companion. The story does not take place in the city of the play’s title, but Kalamazoo does come up as a symbol of realizing one’s dreams and seizing the day. Who knew?

Irving (Arthur J. Beer) is a proud and quirky Jewish man who has lost the love of his life, his wife Rosie, to cancer. Peg (Mary F. Bremer-Beer) is a devout, Rosary-society Catholic widow with five daughters. The two meet up after making a connection on a senior dating website, and then try to navigate their expectations, quirks, prejudices, needs, wants and personalities, as well as their children’s opinions about them.

The theme and situation is ripe for cliché and bad writing. But the script, by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger, is quite good at capturing the real-life angst and natural comedy of the situation. True, there is a scene in which they compare strategies and recipes for antacid, but that was the only cliche I counted, and mostly the two actors are right in sync with one another with the crisp writing. No wonder, as they are married in real life.

Peg may be sexually repressed, but the writers give her plenty of room to assert herself. Irving comes across as a randy, confident mensch, but they also gave him a terrific vulnerability that makes the pendulum of the play swing nicely. In fact, it is the two sides of each character that they each find attractive. I won’t give away why the play is actually called Kalamazoo.

As I sat in The Tipping Point watching, I noticed that most of the patrons were over 60 years old. That can be a common occurrence at any theatre on a given performance, especially as this was a matinee. And I wondered if younger theater-goers would be interested in a play about two grandparents looking for love. The fact is that there is a lot in this play that should ring relevant and true and in the hearts of those of us with active older parents and grandparents. It’s not always easy for a 30-year- old grandchild, for instance, to understand or relate to their 75-year-old grandparent, and what is going on in their heart and head.

The actors work with a minimal set .The play is about them, the dialogue and their story, which doesn’t need much environment; though the sand-colored stage actually comes into play as a beach toward the end of the story.

Kalamazoo is a family affair, as it is directed by Christopher Bremer, the executive director at The Jewish Ensemble Theatre. But for a few f-bombs, which were well placed in the dialogue and not gratuitous, it is a show the whole family can, and should, enjoy.

Bottom Line: Kalamazoo is a rich, well-played story about love at any age.

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