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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Ripcord", by David Lindsay-Abaire, at NY City Center Stage I
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Ripcord", by David Lindsay-Abaire, at NY City Center Stage I

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Manhattan Theatre Club

(Ripcord Website)

By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by David Hyde Pierce

Manhattan Theatre Club
NY City Center Stage I
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove

Marylouise Burke, Rachel Dratch, Glenn Fitzgerald
Daoud Heidami, Nate Miller, Holland Taylor

Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge
Costume Design: Jennifer von Mayrhauser
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Original Music and Sound Design: John Gromada
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: Denise Yaney
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting & Kelly Gillespie
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman & Bethany Weinstein
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter
Director of Casting: Nancy Piccione
General Manager, Ripcord : Lindsey Sag

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 22, 2015

Once again, David Lindsay-Abaire has given us a charming, thought-provoking, heartrending, lovable play, called Ripcord. The title is derived from a practical joke, a dangerous one at that, conceived by Marilyn Dunne (Marylouise Burke) to seriously scare Abby Binder (Holland Taylor), her roommate at the Bristol Place Assisted Living Facility. Yes, that’s far-fetched, but the ripcord saves Abby’s life. In this ingenious dramatic invention, Mr. Lindsay-Abaire adds absurd interludes to the tense standoff between Abby and Marilyn, as their lovely double room faces a bucolic park, but only Abby’s bed is near the window. Marilyn would like to share the view, and Abby would like to make the double room single. So, they place a bet. If Marilyn can scare Abby, she gets the bed with the view, but if Abby first makes the bubbly, chatty Marilyn angry, then Marilyn will move out. The battle first takes the shape of witty interludes, but soon the seniors are in war-mode, researching each other’s past to go for the jugular. Estranged relatives and domestic abuse are soon fodder in the fight, and a faux death prank is added for good measure. I should add that the play’s fight director is Thomas Schall, a pro, who even did the fight direction of the Broadway Cinderella.

Ms. Burke, who has been favorably reviewed on these pages in The Oldest Profession and Fish In the Dark, becomes endearing and insufferable, at once, and that’s a compliment. Her character is multidimensional, sensitive, cheery to a fault, hiding deep hurt. She does become angry, but swallows the anger within moments, to Abby’s chagrin. Ms. Holland, who was astounding in Ann (playing Gov. Ann Richards), becomes passive-aggressive, detached, self-serving, and openly hostile. And, she, too, does become scared, more than once, but she, too, swallows the fright, out of spite. The remaining cast, expanding humor and pathos, are Rachel Dratch, as Marilyn’s daughter, Colleen, Daoud Heidami, as Colleen’s husband, Derek, Nate Miller, as Scotty, the senior home’s helpful aide, who jumps into the plot, and Glenn Fitzgerald, as an unexpected visitor. Ms. Dratch, Mr. Heidami, and Mr. Fitzgerald take on two to three roles in the intertwined adventures. Ms. Dratch and Mr. Heidami appear in frequent visits and outings, with campy, lighthearted personalities. Mr. Miller brings great timing, along with sensitivity and neediness to the role of Scotty. Mr. Fitzgerald, onstage briefly, creates one of the most memorable, gripping scenes.

The success of this remarkable new script lies in the fact that the basic plot line is one that probably plays out day after day in homes like Bristol Place, for those thrown into lifestyle upheaval. Abby had a cemented routine, reading on the park bench, eating alone, sleeping alone, and suppressing her yearning for family and relationships. Marilyn had a loose routine, visiting with her family, chatting with strangers, making herself social, and suppressing dark memories. Mr. Lindsay-Abaire brought these topics cautiously to the fore with a bit of dark humor and seasoned ingenuity. Alexander Dodge’s scenery is especially evocative in the design of the utilitarian, but pleasant, shared room and quite creative in the off-site adventures. Jennifer von Mayrhauser’s costumes give Abby chic, brown wool and cashmere and Marilyn discount, flowery or paisley rayon. Lighting, sound, and original music all enhance the production. And, Mr. Schall’s fight scene keeps the actors vibrant but safe. David Hyde Pearce, Director, deserves kudos for split timing in comedy and nuanced tone and gesture in sentiment. And, kudos to David Lindsay-Abaire. .

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at