Think, if you would, of a stereotypical protest scene. The picket signs. The raised voices. The marches for a unified cause.
Now, let us ask: In that image, did you picture a bunch of outraged seniors in their underwear?
Your answer just may change after a viewing of Michael Pressley Bobbitt’s “Return to Sunset Village,” taking the stage for three weeks at the Marathon Community Theatre.
When the exploits of greedy developer Curtis Morsey (Ashley Andrews) push the community of Sunset Village — modeled after the exact community you’re thinking of – to the brink of environmental collapse, with sinkholes literally swallowing up their friends, the senior residents resolve to turn disgust into action as they vow to destroy Morsey and his company, RELCO.
Just one small issue: unbeknownst to the livid “girl gang,” one of their own, Mikayla (Sharon Young) is newly smitten with Morsey, and finds out more with each day that RELCO’s boss may not be the evil emperor the others imagined.
Though the play is a stand-alone sequel to Bobbitt’s “Sunset Village,” which graced the MCT stage just last year, the second chapter of the seniors’ story takes a touching look at their changing love lives, including the struggling flame between Edna (Joanne Zimmerman) and Mr. Midnight (Jimmy Zimmerman).
With a returning cast of Marianne Benvenuti as Louise, Donna Nussenblatt as Norma, Mary Ann Wimmer as Great Grandma Carolyne and Larry Garrison as Tommy, the gang includes only one recast member (Young) and one new character (Andrews). Nevertheless, the new additions say they had no problem integrating into the heavily familiar group, just as the returning cast picked up where they left off with the characters they developed in early 2022.
“We fell right back in, because we knew where we were at the end of the last one,” said Jim Zimmerman.
“Everyone except (Andrews) and (Young) had their scripts for about eight or nine months,” said director Jackie O’Neil. “Sharon had hers for two weeks or so before rehearsal.”
“And she still learned it faster than the rest of us,” laughed Andrews.
And though last year’s installment may focus on more of the hijinks in Sunset Village, the sequel examines the evolution of each resident’s personality and takes a deeper dive into a strong relationship from the first show that finds itself suddenly on the rocks.
“I don’t see how Jimmy and Joanne can do some of these scenes,” said Benvenuti. “I couldn’t do that with my husband without feeling something come up that I may have wanted to say at some point. … The dialogue is real.”
“When we get into our back-and-forth dialogue, I have to reach back to my first marriage,” said Jim. “It was … oh my God. But that helps.”
The cast praised the efforts of stalwart director O’Neil along with assistant director and stage manager Maresa Casey, who O’Neil described as “impossibly wonderful.”
“She worked her ass off for the Rocky Horror show, which was such a difficult show, and she made it so much easier for everybody,” said Andrews. “And then she jumped right into a harder situation with this one.”
Another cast member credited Casey as the best stage manager she’d had in more than 20 years at MCT.
“Return to Sunset Village” opens on Thursday, Jan. 5 and runs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Jan. 21, with a special matinee on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $28 and are available at www.marathontheater.org or by calling 305-743-0994. The show contains adult themes and is recommended for mature audiences.
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