Unlikely couples fuel comedy—Stan and Ollie, Oscar and Felix, Ralph and Alice—more. But beyond that, they fuel drama—Butch and Sundance, Holmes and Watson, Sir and Norman, Romeo and Juliet. The best parings are those in a script that blend comedy and drama. Such a script is the new play, Early Birds, by Dana Schwartz, which features an unlikely duo of two “senior” women on a cruise. Ivy (Jayne Taini) is big, brash, and earthy. Nora (Jean Gilpin) is tall, thin and bubbly.
Ivy and Nora meet on the “Serenity Deck” and sit as far away as possible, in this case, two deck chairs away. The delightful script calls for the characters to poke and prod a bit on their way to true friendship. Ivy is plainspoken with proletarian vibes that can lead to vulgarity. Nora is talkative and emotes a patrician affect with no trace of condescension. Ivy was long married and has three children and six grandchildren. Nora eschewed the entire notion of children, and was happily free of that burden.
Drama needs conflict, and in this script it arises over revealed information that begets misunderstandings and a friendship-wrecking clash. Along the way, dramatic moments lead to crisis, climax, and a satisfying dénouement.
Director Elizabeth Swain keeps the action crisp. The excellent, experienced principal players, are supported by the performance of Wendy Elizabeth Abraham as the ship’s captain, who checks in from time to time with opportunities, directions, information and needed assistance in some circumstances.
The Moving Arts production is beautifully staged with a sleek scenic design by John Iacovelli (lighting by Martha Carter) that fits the venue and the action like a glove, as does the elegant sound design by Jeff Gardner. The costume design by Carolyn Mazuca supports character, place and action. Josie Austine manages the stage with cool assurance. And assistant stage manager and deckhand, Ellen Bergner, handles prop changes with a smart demure demeanor.
The Moving Arts presentation of the world premiere of Early Birds, produced by Cece Tio, continues through September 7 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.