Now until April 7th, Hedgerow Theatre is presenting Neil Simon's bittersweet comedy, "The Gingerbread Lady". In the 1970's, Evy Meara, a recovering alcoholic, is welcomed home from rehab by her loyal friends and teenage daughter. A 43 year old singer/actress, Evy's rehab was precipitated by a disastrous relationship with a guitar player ten years her junior. Evy's closest male friend is Jimmy Perry, a forty-year-old actor who is still waiting for his big break. Her best girlfriend is Toby, an aging glamour queen who can't seem to hang onto her husband. And Evy's ex-boyfriend is a thoughtless freeloader who tries to weasel his way back into her affections when he is dumped by his latest 18 year old conquest. The only relatively well-adjusted person in this play is Evy's sweet and loving daughter, Polly.
Neil Simon is the master of the one line gag and the first act of "The Gingerbread Lady" is rife with them. We never consciously notice the clever character development because we're always laughing too hard, but believe me, it's there. Simon has crafted a play full of the most lovable losers you'll ever want to meet. The second act, however, takes a more serious turn as Simon explores the real problems associated with Evy's alcoholism. As we soon see, living with a drinker is not all fun and games -- not for her family and friends, nor for herself.
When Elaine Stritch first read this play she swore that Simon had written it about her. In fact, a handful of notoriously colorful actresses have all claimed that this play was modeled on their not so "model" lives.
On the whole, the acting in this production is first-rate. Applause for Susan Wefel as Evy who in the second act very convincingly drinks herself out of control right before our eyes; and to Wayne Pyle who gives his Jimmy just the right amount of prissy affectation and maternal warmth to make his character very believable and very lovable. Jona Harvey is quite funny as the pathetically vain Toby and Joy Orlemann is sweetly convincing as Polly.
The costumes by Martyn, which included scarves in the hair, fringe jackets and platform shoes, delineate the 70's well. Unfortunately, the set strikes the one sour note. Though the beige and brown plaid wood slatted couch scream of the era, it would never have been a sofa that a monied, tasteful Evy would purchase. No, the apartment was Evy's and Evy shops at Gucci's and sends her daughter to a private school. She is not going to sit on a couch that looks like it was picked up at the Salvation Army via a beach house in Asbury Park.
The direction by Agatha Carducci Kuhn is quick-paced and invisible -- the way good direction should be. We don't notice that it's there -- we just notice what a good time we're having.
Not unlike the ginger snap, this is a sweet little play with a bit of a bite to it. But I'm very fond of ginger snaps
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