‘SUNSET VILLAGE’ OPENS AT MARATHON COMMUNITY THEATRE THIS WEEK

The ‘girl gang’ of Edna (Joanne Zimmerman), Louise (Marianne Benvenuti), Norma (Donna Nussenblatt) and Mikayla (Victoria Coy) share a toast. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

“It’s not all sex, drugs and swinging,” said stage manager Maresa Casey.

But, that’s a lot of it.

Enter “Sunset Village” by Michael Pressley Bobbitt, the second main-stage show of Marathon Community Theatre’s 2021-2022 season. 

Based on the infamous Villages in Central Florida, the show follows recent widow Edna Wilson (Joanne Zimmerman) as she moves into a retirement community and is swept into the underground drug and sex culture of a senior citizen Neverland. Bring some Depends if you need them, and maybe a couple of tissues too, as the raunchy comedy with a sprinkling of drama will keep audiences howling (and crying) from curtain to curtain.

Along with her new “girl gang” of Louise (Marianne Benvenuti), Mikayla (Victoria Coy) and Norma (Donna Nussenblatt), Edna attempts to navigate the new single senior life and manage the advances of Mr. Midnight (Jimmy Zimmerman), a man overflowing with swagger who most would agree has been a bit too cavalier in his Sunset Village love life.

“This is a comedy, but there’s a good story to it. There’s a friendship story, and then there’s a love story,” said Casey.

Though the cast and crew have little personal experience with The Villages, they have undoubtedly done their homework.

“I pretended like I was interested in moving there about six months ago, so I get big books of information about it all the time,” said director Jackie O’Neil. “I found out that it’s expensive, but there are all kinds of marvelous things that you can do. And I love what our actors are doing with it. These guys are tremendous.”

Most of the cast said that slipping into the characters wasn’t exactly hard work. “We’re playing people who are near our age. Some of us are in the process of finding our way, not working any more, being retired, so it’s not all that weird,” said Nussenblatt. “Yeah, and we all know feisty old people,” said Benvenuti.

The cast got off on the right foot with the playwright, who FaceTimed them personally on the first night of rehearsal. “He was just happy with the cast and kept saying everyone looked just like he hoped they would,” said O’Neil, adding that Bobbitt may make an appearance at opening night.

“He went through and had tidbits of advice and insight for every single character,” said Charla Garrison, who plays real estate agent and eventual girl gang addition Andrea. “He was just encouraging, and very excited.”

The comedy follows a recent successful MCT trend of pushing the envelope with some adult content, particularly as Edna develops a relationship with Mr. Midnight. However, scenes are handled with a delicate blend of gravity and humor, often beginning with one and completely flipping into the other. Fortunately, the real-life husband and wife are well equipped for the challenge.

“Of all the plays I’ve been in so far, this has been the easiest one to learn, because what you’re saying makes sense,” said Jimmy Zimmerman. “And the best part about it is I get to fall in love with the love of my life every performance.”

“Oh, he’s just happy he gets to be on stage in his underwear,” said Benvenuti.
“Sunset Village” opens on Thursday, Jan. 13 and runs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Feb. 12, with a special matinee on Sunday, Jan. 30 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.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.