What do widowed people do when their lonely lives are going nowhere and their grown children are nagging them to meet someone?
They finally drag their fingers over the computer keys and sign up for Silver Fox online dating.
So begins Kalamazoo, now playing at the Wildish Community Theater in Springfield. The touching comedy by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger, which won the Reva Shiner comedy award in 2015, seems custom-made for the Not Ready for Retirement Players.
This two-person play, which doesn’t take place in Kalamazoo, runs 90 minutes without intermission. In eight nifty scenes we get to know Peg and Irving in all their honesty, quirkiness and intimate embarrassment. The roles are richly mined by popular actors Rebecca Nachison and Chris Pinto, who have the skills to fully embody their characters and clearly show us how they grow.
Director Chris McVay astutely guides them to be authentic in their emotions and reactions rather than overly theatrical or farcical, even when they find themselves in awkward situations. Real life is funny enough.
The first scene shows the two of them filling out their dating profile. The questions are probing and difficult to answer. It’s like going to a psychiatrist who offers no help. No one wants to feel that vulnerable.
Peg claims she’s willing to be spontaneous, if she has a little advance notice. As a devout Catholic, her social life centers on church activities, but most of her enjoyment comes from being a “bird person.” She explains that it’s not about flight. Even humans can fly now, but can we molt?
No. We can’t perform that miracle of sloughing off old skin and replacing it with a radiant new covering.
Irving is Jewish, and he’s having a hard time recovering from the slow death of his beloved wife. His hobby is taking a metal detector to the beach and finding coins and other small treasures. That sounds boring, but it spurs him to imagine adventures for the found items.
What Irving would really like is to date a shiksa, a non-Jew, because he never has. He’d like a warm relationship and some sex. Well, who wouldn’t?
Peg, that’s who. At least that’s what she thinks at first. She calls it intercourse, because the word sex is too sexy. Of course, sex is inevitable when two people describe themselves as open, but it’s awkward, just like everything in a deepening relationship after not having dated for more than 40 years.
I could have done without their advice about antacids on their first date while sharing a gigantic margarita, but most of the dialogue rings true and most of the scenes are believable.
The couple’s ups and downs and misunderstandings are not theatrical contrivances but legitimate concerns, and the opening night audience was clearly pulling for the success of their romance.
The Wildish Theater is a good choice for the company, with room to accommodate its growing audience. I could easily hear every word, as the theater’s acoustics are excellent. Even the Bach Festival presented a program there this year.
The simple but effective set design by Michael Walker allows easy transitions to different locales, indicated by large, stylized rear projections designed by Tim Rogers. The costumes by Judy Wegner are just right, especially Irving’s black support socks worn with Bermuda shorts.
A happy detail: popular loves songs from the characters’ youth set an evocative mood between scenes. Those salad days are long gone but, with luck, love springs eternal and lasts till our final moments.
The comedy Kalamazoo is playing at The Wildish Community Theater through Aug. 18; times and tickets through wildishtheater.com.