April 7 2015 05:49 PM

Comedy wrangles over caring for elderly parents

SunsetPark
Left to right: Brenda Adelman, Carm Greco and Charles Peters
Photo by Ken Jacques

Sunset Park is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, but it also sounds like the name of a nursing home, doesn't it? A place to spend the sunset years of one's evaporating life. This analogy doesn't come out of a clear blue sky. Marley Sims' and Elliot Shoenman's play Sunset Park finds two self-involved adult children, Carol and Roger, wrangling over what to do with their elderly mother, Evelyn, and the old apartment she's living in that could be an investment coup for them. And in a flashback that parallels the principal story, the young Evelyn and her blue-collar husband are struggling to ease his sick and aging crank of a father into a seniors facility.

Sounds like a scream. But Sunset Park is written as a comedy, albeit with serious undertones. A current production of the play at Scripps Ranch Theatre under the direction of Eric Poppick lays the comedy on thick, especially in the first act. It isn't consistently successful. Carm Greco, apparently channeling Mama Sophia from The Golden Girls, overplays her hand, and, like Brenda Adelman as Carol, beats the New Yawk inflections and mannerisms to death. Charles Peters is more measured and convincing as well-to-do son Roger, and—in the parallel story—Kristin Woodburn (as young Evelyn), David Ryan Gutierrez (as her husband Benny) and Haig Koshkarian (playing the dying father-in-law) accredit themselves well. 

The revelations of Act 2 bring gravitas to the proceedings, though even when Evelyn recounts the pain of coping with a deteriorating, abusive in-law, followed by the sudden death of her husband at only 42 years old, you still get the feeling that Carol and Roger would choose a "home" for their mother over too much inconvenience. Co-playwrights Sims and Shoenman may be best known for their Home Improvement TV scripts, a fact that makes the sensitivity of this play more impressive when compared with that Tim Allen nonsense. In other words, Sunset Park does address difficult and sadly all-too-relevant issues in American family life, and generally speaking, it does so thoughtfully. At Scripps Ranch Theatre, the execution isnít always there, but the spirit is willing and the realities are unapologetic. 

Sunset Park runs through April 19 at the Legler Benbough Theatre at Alliant International University in Scripps Ranch. $26-$29. scrippsranchtheatre.org

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com.


Opening

Sea of Souls: In this dramatic musical, a young folk singer tries to find her biological mother in a small West Virginia town. Presented by Ion Theatre, it opens April 9 at the URBN CNTR 4THE ARTS in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com

Self-Made Man: The Frederick Douglass Story: A free, one-man show written and performed by Phil Darius Wallace about the legendary African-American leader. It starts at 6 p.m. April 9 in the University Student Union Ballroom on the CSU San Marcos campus. csusm.edu/sofa

Seussical, Jr.: A family-friendly musical where all of Dr. Seuss' characters share the stage at the same time. Presented by Visionary Youth Theatre, It opens April 9 at Visionary Performance Space in La Mesa. visionarydancetheatre.org

The Balcony: Originally written by French political activist Jean Genet, this play tells the story of a dystopian society where people are controlled by corporations. Presented by Chronos Theatre Group, it opens April 10 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center in Downtown. chronostheatre.com

Freud's Last Session: A fictional meeting between renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and novelist C.S. Lewis results in a lively discussion about love, war, sex and everything in between. It opens in previews April 10 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

The Hallelujah Girls: The aging ladies of a small Southern town band together to improve their lives after losing a friend. It opens April 10 at the Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com

Parallel Lives: Two women play 40 different characters in this sketch-style satire. Presented by Talent to aMuse Theatre Company, it opens April 10 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center Forum Theatre in Downtown. talenttoamuse.com

The 39 Steps: Written by Alfred Hitchcock, the two-time Tony Award winner mixes romance and comedy with the suspense of a spy thriller. It opens April 10 at the Welk Resorts Theater in Escondido. welkresorts.com

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992: Examines the 1992 L.A. riots with a series of monologues recounting the personal stories of people who were there. Opens April 10 at the Cal State San Marcos Performance Hall. csusm.edu/sofa

Reflections: A Journey Through Musical Theatre: San Diego Play Company presents a one-night-only performance of iconic musical theater numbers. There are two performances at 5 and 8 p.m. April 11 at RAW Space Off Broadway in the Gaslamp. www.facebook.com/sdplayco

Uncanny Valley: Set 40 years in the future, this world-premiere play centers on a neuroscientist working to give humans immortality by downloading their thoughts and memories into an A.I. being. It opens April 11 at Lyceum Space at Horton Plaza in Downtown. sdrep.org

The History of Invulnerability: A free reading of a new play by David Bar Katz about Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman. Part of "Remembrance Readings" for Holocaust Remembrance Day, it starts at 7:30 p.m. April 13 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org

Wagner New Play Festival: The annual series of plays—three full-lengths, two one-acts and a staged reading—written, directed and performed by UCSD graduate students. Opens April 14 at UCSD in La Jolla. theatre.ucsd.edu

Unnecessary Farce: A comical tale of an embezzling mayor trying to outrun his accountant, the law and a couple of hitmen. Opens in previews on April 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org


Now playing

Legally Blonde: The Musical: A musical adaptation of the hit film about a co-ed who leaves an entitled life in Malibu to chase her boyfriend to Harvard Law School. It runs through April 11 at UCSD Mandeville Auditorium in La Jolla. muirmusical.wordpress.com

The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode: Diversionary Cabaret presents this comical spoof of the 80s sitcom. Through April 19 at Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org

Rhinoceros: In playwright Eugene Ionesco's Theater of the Absurd work, a post-World War II comment on conformity, the inhabitants of a French town transform into rhinoceroses one by one. Through April 19 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com

Sunset Park: A widow's Brooklyn apartment building is going co-op, and her adult children sow conflict when they see an opportunity to profit. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through April 19 at Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org

My Fair Lady: A man attempts to turn a rough-around-the-edges girl into something more sophisticated—and then develops the hots for her. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through April 26 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com

The White Snake: A play based on a Chinese fable about a snake that turns into a woman, falls in love and runs afoul of a mean ol' monk. Through April 26 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

The Pirates of Penzance: Nine actors stranded on a desert island perform Gilbert and Sullivan's classic comic opera. Through April 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com

Boeing Boeing: In this comical farce by Marc Camoletti, a scheming bachelor finds himself engaged to three different flight attendants only to find one day they're all scheduled to arrive at his apartment at the same time. Through May 3 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com

Buyer & Cellar: A hit Off Broadway comedy about an unemployed actor who becomes Barbara Streisand's personal shopkeeper. It runs through May 3 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Lord of the Flies: A group of young boys regress into warring savages when their plan crash-lands on a deserted island. Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, it runs through May 3 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: In a musical based on a biblical tale, a dude who has an "amazing" garment becomes a slave, but he triumphs in Egypt regardless. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through May 31 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org

Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net

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