'Social Security' Starts Thursday
The name of playwright, Andrew Bergman, whose first screenwriting credit dates back to Mel Brooks’ classic film “Blazing Saddles,” may not ring any bells for Sandhills theatergoers.
But an an example of his comic flair opens Thursday, Sept. 23, at the Sunrise Theater and continues through Sunday, Sept. 26. The name of this funny play about romance for all ages is “Social Security” and confirms why Bergman was crowned “The Unknown King of Comedy” by New York Magazine at the height of his career.
“Social Security” centers around New York City art gallery owners Barbara and David Kahn, whose life is turned inside out when her sister, Trudy, deposits their eccentric mother, Sophie, on the couple’s doorstep while she and her husband, Martin, head upstate to rescue their college-age daughter, who is described as “majoring in promiscuity.” Barbara and David introduce Sophie to a debonair older artist, Maurice, who soon begins to brighten her life in ways she never expected in her twilight years.
Susan Paschal, assistant professor of theater at Fayetteville State University, who has performed locally and nationally as an actress and singer, is directing the six-person cast. Pointing to a personal history with “Social Security,” she says that when she first came to North Carolina from New York, “Bo Thorpe at Fayetteville’s Cape Fear Regional Theater had just gotten the rights to the play, which had just closed on Broadway, and she cast me in the role of Barbara. I thought it was one of the funniest plays that I had ever been in.”
The play also reminds Susan Paschal of her widowed mother’s experience in remarrying at the age of 60 and having a rewarding 21-year romance with her second husband.
“The play is about that type of romantic relationship,” she says. “Often people think that love only happens to the young, and ‘Social Security’ debunks that idea, as it explores the lives of three couples of differing ages.”
Pleased with the actors who came to audition for the play, Paschal adds, “There is an unbelievable creative collaboration and connection among the six who were chosen. The show itself isn’t based on technical factors — it is an actor’s play that is reminiscent of some of the better British comedies with a concentration on timing.”
Kimberly Corrigan, who has the lead role of Barbara, explains that she has a passion for community theater, honed during the time she lived in Moore County. Consequently, she drives back and forth between Raleigh and Southern Pines to be part of what she now calls her “theatrical family.”
In playing Barbara, Corrigan is faced with a range of emotions.
“She has become a sophisticated married woman, yet she is still a daughter and a sister, and her interactions with her mother and sister threaten to unmask the face she presents to her world,” Corrigan says. “She wants to be recognized as a successful artist and businesswoman, and she becomes annoyed with her mother’s lack of perception of her as a grown woman.”
Still remembered as “the crazy Russian” in a local production of “You Can’t Take It With You” a few years ago, Brant Clifton this time has the role of Barbara’s husband. Full of energy, David Kahn is a no-nonsense individual who says what he thinks, and in this case, he isn’t thrilled with the idea of having his mother-in-law invade their home.
Alice and Vertrees Hollingsworth, longtime community theater actors well-known to Sandhills audiences, love to play parts that call for them to use their talent of talking in various accents. In “Social Security,” they are at their peak as Sophie, the mother, and artist Maurice, both of whom speak in the typical New York Jewish idiom.
Vertrees Hollingsworth is in his element in the role of Maurice, which he describes as “a natty Marc Chagall,” and he has grown a mustache to comply with the required facial characteristic. Alice is having fun with the part of Sophie.
“We like playing together — there is a sort of magnetism after 50 years of marriage,” she says.
The part of Trudy, the sister who feels put-upon and doesn’t have any of the glamour in her life that her younger, gorgeous sibling enjoys, is played by another versatile actress familiar to Moore County audiences — Loretta Aldridge. When asked what attracted her to audition, she says simply, “Any play attracts me.”
After a five-year hiatus from performing, this is the third show she has been in during the last six months on local stages. However, it is no wonder that Loretta Aldridge was drawn to the part of Trudy. To describe how substantial the part of the sister in “Social Security” is, it should be noted that the woman who originally played the role on Broadway won an award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play, despite sharing the stage with co-stars Marlo Thomas and Olympia Dukakis.
Dave Kinney, a transplant from Massachusetts to the Sandhills, has been involved in community theater for more than 20 years. It all started when he drove his daughter to a rehearsal of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and the director corralled him to play an adult role. In “Social Security,” he plays Trudy’s long-suffering husband, reacting to her neurotic nature by going along with her — up to a point.
Leading the backstage crew are Marty Rasmus, stage manager, with Doug Frye in charge of set design. Leslie Crows has provided props, and Joe Rasmus handles lighting.
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Sept. 23 – 25, at 7:30 p.m., and an extra matinee has been added to the schedule on Saturday as well as the regular matinee Sunday, Sept. 26, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15 per person available at the door with payment by cash or check, and there is no advance sale or reserved seating. A special discounted two-for-one ticket price is available for the Thursday night performance.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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