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Flamingo Court

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Jamie Farr and Anita Gillette.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

"Old is in," chimes the irrationally peppy theme song to Luigi Creatore's irrationally dirge-like play Flamingo Court, which just opened at New World Stages. That song, which welcomes the audience back from intermission, continues: "It's the rage / Now is the time to flaunt your age."

Is it? The disconnect between that ditty's bubbly tone and the rest of the evening's wrist-slitting fatalism is enough to spawn black holes down Broadway. Among the "flaunting" on offer: farting in the closet, lying about a dead spouse, attempted murder, actual murder, an octogenarian patronizing a prostitute, ungrateful and money-grubbing children, and post-rigor mortis haunting to benefit Meals on Wheels.

Such "hysterical" happenings mask what one assumes is the point of this leaden look at the twilight years: that getting old needn't be so bad after all. But Creatore's obsession with violence and unhappiness torpedoes even a casually enjoyable celebration of the joys of aging in what is subtitled "a comedy in three condos."

At least Creatore got the last two words right. Each of the three acts takes place in different residences in the same South Florida apartment building, the only linking thread (beyond advanced age) between them the omnipresent specter of misery. First, the energetic Angelina romances the doting Dominic while her husband wastes away in the bedroom; next, the lucid Arthur has committed his wife Clara, who's in the early stages of dementia, to an old-age home, but can't convince her to accept his judgment; last and least, Harry celebrates his 89th birthday with a hooker to scandalize his bitchy daughter and her annoying husband (Lucy Martin and Joe Vincent).

Unlike the long-running TV sitcom The Golden Girls, the model for this kind of comedy, Flamingo Court is bereft of any kind of affection: from Creatore to his characters, or from the characters to each other. The only legitimate love to be found is the kind you'll feel as an audience member for the production's two luminous and deceptively ageless stars, Jamie Farr and Anita Gillette.

No, they don't look as spry or as line-free as once they did. But they're both master comedians, capable of wringing laughs from granite, which is usually what they're required to do in each of the lead roles they play. Endless discussions about soap operas and impotence become vaguely listenable, and physical shtick that would be untenable under most other circumstances glimmers with the dim hope of amusement. And because Gillette and Farr both fully embody their characters, the former moving so seamlessly from activity to senility to coarse sensuality and the latter maintaining an emotional indomitability in even the most groan-inducing situations, you occasionally feel involved in their interior lives.

But the hateful atmosphere suffusing every aspect of those lives renders their work, and everyone else's, meaningless. The right script might be able to make some use of Steven Yuhasz's sprightly direction, James Youmans's cheerily utilitarian condo set, Carol Sherry's on-the-money fashion-don't costumes, or the relatively hilarious projected excerpts from the complex's newsletter that cover a major scene change. Here, they never get a chance.

Creatore states in his Playbill bio that he constructed this show from works he originally wrote for the Boca Raton Community Theater, which explains quite a bit but excuses nothing. It's hard to imagine that senior-citizen community-theatre audiences would want their mortality shoved so shamelessly in their faces - Embracing whatever remains of life rather than inviting the Grim Reaper over for freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies is typically preferred by people of all ages. But despite Creatore's song, in Flamingo Court old is either already out or will be shown the door ASAP.

Flamingo Court
New World Stages / Stage 2, 40 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Running Time: 2 hours, with one intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge

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