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Review: ‘Ripcord’ revels in roommate rancor

Review: ‘Ripcord’ revels in roommate rancor

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Roommates can be a problem. All you have to do is ask any husband, wife, sister, brother or college student with a roommate for affirmation.

Matching similar needs and wants into longtime friendships can be tricky. Between shared responsibilities, schedules, cleanliness and unquestionably different personalities, people just don’t always get along.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the script for The Omaha Playhouse’s newest production, “Ripcord,” which discovers this special relationship to be true.

Abby Bender (Carleen Willoughby) is purposefully despicable to her roommates in an effort to make them move out of “her” shared room. Unfortunately, Bristol Place Senior Living Facility does not always have the space for single rooms. Abby enjoys her books, her plants and her phenomenal view of the park below with her bed beside her large window. Who needs a roommate? She has all she needs and prides herself in never being scared of anything or anybody.

Marilyn Dunne (Judy Radcliffe) is Abby’s newest roommate and is the opposite of Abby in almost every way. She is cheerful, outgoing, enjoys walks and the outdoors with constant involvement and interactions with every living creature. She is the optimist who is never, ever angry.

Opposites can attract but this one seems doomed for disaster. Immediately, the two find conflict and, after a few days, recognize that something has to change.

Their solution is a bet.

Marilyn gets to remain in the room if she succeeds in scaring Abby in some way. Added to that, her bed will replace Abby’s as the one by the window so she can view the invigorating day as she awakens.

All Abby has to do is to make Marilyn angry. Just one outburst of anger and Marilyn agrees to move out, leaving the room to Abby.

“Ripcord” continues with pranks and spite with Marilyn and Abby attempting to outdo each other in order to win the bet. While the antics are hilarious, they are also a little sad that anyone would actually consider doing these things to another human.

Both actresses are masterful. The first time Radcliffe and her family arrive on stage, it is easy for the audience to connect with her. Willoughby has the difficult role of the antagonist while expertly portraying her crankiness. What I find most appealing is how these two grow their characters in an extremely short period of time.

The supporting cast is fantastic. Sahil Khullar as Scotty, the nursing home employee, is believable in his attempts to have the bet stopped while looking out for the interests of Abby and Marilyn.

The sets are simple, purposefully and functional. Everything moves through a rope system which is fascinating to observe as it always remains on stage.

The behind-the-scenes staff are marvelous. Kimberly Faith Hickman directs with Gabi Rima as stage manager, Amanda Fehler as costume designer, John Gibilisco as resident sound designer, Darin Kuehler in charge of properties, Jim Othuse as lighting designer and Paul Pape is in change of set design. Tim Vallier is the wonderfully unique and fitting music composer and arranger.

The first act is 55 minutes, and the second is 50 following a 15-minute intermission.

The play itself is delightful while the pranks escalate to being over-the-top, the mixture of comedy and humanity are memorable.

Ideally, the play is aimed at those approaching the age of being a senior citizen or those who already are seniors, as well as their families. This production is not appropriate for children.

“Ripcord” continues through Feb. 11 with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Prices are $30 for adults and $18 for students. On Wednesdays, the price for the shows are $24 for adults and $16 for students. Ticket prices can change based on dates, seat locations, groups and demands.

To purchase tickets, call 402-553-0800, through the website at You can also visit the theater box office at The Omaha Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha.

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