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Ripcord: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Through sheer force of icy will, Abby (the lordly Holland Taylor) has managed to drive away all the women who’ve been assigned to share her room at the nursing home. Imperious and unsociable, she clings to a lonely dignity, like a captain determined to go down with her ship. But her latest would-be roommate, Marilyn (master ditherer Marylouise Burke), won’t leave without a fight—and that’s what she gets. In Marilyn’s irrepressible exuberance, Abby’s crabbiness meets its match, and the two strike up a bet over who can most effectively get under the other’s skin. As their war spirals out, it gets increasingly twisted.
The great fun of David Lindsay-Abaire’s tastily sweet-and-sour Ripcord lies in watching the marvelous Taylor and Burke dig their heels into this stand-off. Solidly crafted to land somewhere between The Odd Couple and The Gin Game, the play is not unpredictable, but it’s larded with moments of surprise, both wacky (they visit a haunted house!) and more substantial. The latter aspects come through strongly in David Hyde Pierce’s elegant production, which never loses sight of the women’s humanity; when the play gets serious, in a pivotal scene between Taylor and Glenn Fitzgerald, it’s genuinely moving. Beyond the high jinks, Ripcord offers a compelling look at the pleasure of a challenge and the challenge of finding pleasure.
Manhattan Theatre Club (Off Broadway). By David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by David Hyde Pierce. With Holland Taylor, Marylouise Burke. 2hrs. One intermission.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam