Reviewed by Karl Levett
Presented by The Colleagues Theatre Company at the Neighborhood Playhouse, 340 E. 54 St., NYC, Jan. 4-20.
"Second Summer," by Gary Richards, is presented by The Colleagues Theatre Company, whose mission is to celebrate "the mature life experience" by developing performance opportunities for seasoned actors. This praiseworthy is embraced by playwright Richards with a team of "mature" performers in what eventually becomes a contemporary comedy. Reg Herring (Gil Rogers), a widower of four years, is packing to move to Florida, saying goodbye to his best friends Doris (Catherine Wolf) and Ernie Cabella (Joel Rooks). In Florida, Reg meets his neighbor, the attractive and non-shy Sheila Haskett (Joan Copeland) while taking piano lessons from Bev Perkins (Margery Beddow). When Ernie dies, Doris asks if she can visit and Reg slowly realizes that he is being pursued by three eligible women.
This realization does not come about until the end of the first act, the play taking much too long to declare itself a romantic comedy. The whole process needs to be a lot crisper throughout. The second act is certainly livelier, but even then, the playwright is unable to take full advantage of the genuinely amusing situation he has set up. Part of the problem is that we don't know enough about the characters beyond the most conventional details—and the brevity of the sound byte scenes doesn't help. Yet, when the playwright provides a fulsome speech for the rejected piano teacher (with Beddow doing it expertly), we glimpse possibilities not provided elsewhere.
Much of the time, the players themselves have to provide the missing charm—and they do, easily. Copeland, with ever-changing costume and a twinkle in her eye, provides the comic sophistication the play cries out for. Rogers, as "almost a virgin" Reg, is the play's straight man, and is totally believable, while Wolf invests her Doris with a pleasing emotional quality. Indeed, all the performances justify the group's expressed mission and ably demonstrate the theatrical advantages of life enhancing "maturity."