Review of ACT’s comedy farce

Anti-drug message here: it could be hazardous to a person’s health to ingest pharmaceutical substances they know next to nothing about. If, however, taking the wrong drug happens during the course of a play called “Sex Please, We’re Sixty,” the end result is the absurdly funny farce now playing at Alpena Civic Theatre.

That’s the in-a-nutshell premise behind this comedy by Michael Parker and Susan Parker. You’ve got your little blue Viagra pills intended for the guys, plus you’ve got a revolutionary little blue pill that supposedly increases the libido of menopausal women. The pills get into the wrong hands and hilarity ensues.

Chip Lavely and Scott Edgar co-directed the show that starts with another smart ACT set enhanced by the artistic talents of set painter Nancy Mead. They created the pleasant-looking Rose Cottage Bed and Breakfast in New England run by the prim and proper Mrs. Stancliffe (Karen Thompson).

The B&B seems to draw repeat female customers of a certain age who come for a few days of relaxation. Mrs. Stancliffe’s randy neighbor, Bud Davis, believes he’s the reason why they keep returning. He stops in frequently to scan her check-in list, find out who’s arriving and help them with their luggage if need be because his motto is, “He who checks the chicks in gets to check the chicks out.”

Mrs. Stancliffe’s other neighbor, retired chemist Henry Hudson (Rick Mesler), also comes around daily. He’s smitten with her so much so that every day for the last 20 years, he’s brought her a bouquet of flowers and a marriage proposal. Even though she routinely turns him down, in his rather bungling way, Henry keeps on popping the question.

Henry also is the developer of the new blue pill he calls Venusia (after Venus, the goddess of love), which he hopes ultimately will increase his chances with Mrs. Stancliffe.

Adding to the farcical nature of the play is the casting of Pat Skiba as Bud the Stud. No offense intended, but he is not one you’d ordinary pin up as a male sex symbol, which just makes his never ending quest to bed the guests all the more humorous.

Bud ends up with his hands full with the latest guests at Mrs. Stancliffe’s B&B: a romance novelist with writer’s block (Sharon Shiemke), a provocative Southern belle (Julie Meyers) and a former colleague of Henry’s game to try his Venusia (Nancy Mead).

Once the inn fills up with this trio, Bud begins popping Viagra like they’re M&Ms. During the first act, he slips in and out of their bedrooms seemingly nonstop, but after they find out about his three-timing ways, they decide to replace his pills with Henry’s new invention. That will show him, they think.

Hapless Henry also takes what he believes is Viagra, but in actuality are the pills intended for the women. The women, of course, with high hopes of their own, also ingest some pills so that in Act II, the fast pacing really kicks in and in typical farce fashion, cast members keep entering through one door and exiting out and through another.

All the levity reaches a highpoint when the two guys exhibit over-the-top symptoms of female menopause. Sobbing uncontrollably, fanning themselves for relief in the midst of hotflashes and complaining of feeling fat and bloated, Bud and Henry accuse the women of being insensitive to their plight.

It’s hard to tell whether audience members of the female persuasion were ecstatic to see a couple of guys finally experiencing all the irksome symptoms of menopausal women or if the total ludicrousness of the situation just flat out amused them that much, but there certainly was a lot of hearty laughter going on this week at ACT. The other possibility is that the six performers were doing such a good job with their respective roles and the amusing material they had to work with that theatre patrons couldn’t help but laugh.

At any rate, this comical farce about a group of 60-somethings, their pursuit of the opposite sex and their mix-up in medications continues this week and next. Show dates are today through Sunday and March 21-24 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

For reservations, call the box office at 354-3624.