Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: Second chances are essentially new beginnings, and in Mike Vogel’s play Second Chance, that definitely seems to be the case for Jack, a 77-year-old senior who reluctantly moves into an assisted living facility. His lawyer son, Larry, beat him at an arm wrestling match. What was at stake was a one-week trial stay at a facility that finally had an opening. Larry is a caring and considerate young man who promised his late mother that he would take care of his father. This is in spite of the fact that dad is quite disagreeable. Because he forgets to turn off the gas burners on the stove, forgets to take his medicines, and maces a grocery delivery boy, Larry is determined to see that his father is safe. Assisted living seems to be the answer.
What Larry doesn’t count on is that once his father arrives at the facility, the women there are drawn to him like a magnet. Jack becomes cool, sexy and sought after. Violet, an especially feisty senior, gets to Jack in a big way. Chet, another resident at the facility is not happy that he now has competition from Jack. He depends on a walker to get around and has obviously been around. He even concedes that Jack can have Violet, but not the pretty young aide, Malka. Though Chet bribes Malka with money for backrub favors, what she is really looking for is a smart and responsible father for her young son.
The first act is fun-filled and unfolds pleasantly if not somewhat predictably; however, the second act is where the guts of the show comes to life and where the audience sits up and pays closer attention. This is when the playwright shows there’s more to this play than a sitcom happening. It is here when we see there is more to the central characters than first gleaned.
Jack becomes less disagreeable, but is afraid to take risks. Getting old is hard. Jack is still forgetful. Violet doesn’t want to be left alone. Larry is 37 and doesn’t even have a girlfriend; perhaps he is gay. There’s definitely more to Larry than meets the eye. Malka becomes more desperate in her search for a reliable father for her son and Chet who left the facility suddenly returns.
In retrospect, the character that we care the most for in this play is Larry. He’s thoroughly likeable as the good son, but there’s something smoldering deep inside him.
There’s also some mystery to Larry that is intriguing, whereas the other characters are pretty much what you see is what you get. The focus on aging with all its challenges is always present, and makes this production perfect fare for the sandwich generation dealing with elderly parents as well as for baby boomers, who are now senior citizens.
Originally, this play was titled Senior Moment, but the new title Second Chance works far better since it is more inclusive and allows for a new start for the protagonist.
Directed by Russell Treyz, who keeps the action moving along at a quick pace and has his finger on the central theme, he also brings out the best of this full Equity cast. Paul D’Amato as Jack delivers a solid performance as a 77 year old with doubts and worries. Jack Lafferty plays a most believable and memorable performance as Larry. Marina Re, who played the role of feisty Violet in New York, recreates the role here and she does it with such flamboyancy and high energy. Amanda Kristin Nicols, who also played her role in New York as Malka turns the heat up especially when she dances the salsa and Warren Kelley as Chet makes the most of his every moment on stage.
The scenic design is as clean and crisp as it is clever. Kudos to Daniel Husvar for his innovation and creativity. It is amazing how art can change a room. Johnna Fettinger’s costumes reflected the characters from the outside in, and Doug Harry’s lighting design and Matt Martin’s sound design complemented the production. This show plays through April 29. Box office: 203-757-4676.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]