Musicals can focus on a variety of characters ranging from five-years-old to mature people. Sadly, there haven’t been too many shows that shine a light on aging.
Rag Lady Productions premiere of the comedy-drama, The Geeze and Me, at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center, gives audiences a look into friends who are adapting to a late stage of their lives. Optimistic David (Hedges Capers), acts as an unofficial leader of the group.
He spends plenty of time with his wife, Kay (Devlin), and pals, Bob (Kent Brisby), Dwight (Jesse MacKinnon), Sherry (Gabriela Nelson), Howard (Byron LaDue) and Helen (Lorraine Devon Wilke). David and his friends are going through serious issues like falling, weak bladder control, and making amends for past mistakes.
Capers’ songs, and the book co-written by Capers and Nancy Locke Capers, don’t make the lives of the protagonists seem easy. They often struggle with health issues, and a few of them have significant regrets.
No major plot exists in The Geeze and Me, and events play out in a series of vignettes. These not always kid-friendly scenarios range from situations involving death, overcoming addiction, dealing with family problems and wearing Depends.
Several monologues are also used to provide an understanding of the day-to-day living situations of David and his chums.
If laughter and joy fuel The Geeze and Me, tragedy and sadness occasionally affect the men and women, especially at the end of Act I. Instead of finishing on a hilarious note or with a big showtune, the first half concludes with a tearful conversation.
Even through pains and hardships, the San Diegans want to enjoy each day as best as they can. In musical numbers like “How Old do you Feel,” “Sailor,” and “The Geeze,” the compadres show that they aren’t depressed about their existence. All of them have a sense of humor and find ways to be more upbeat and happy.
With influences ranging from soft rock to Celtic music, Capers’ melodies often result in optimistic moments. Several of his more dramatic numbers are sung tenderly by Wilke, and her emotional singing on “If I Ever Smile Again” touchingly fleshes out Helen.
Capers sings with a laidback and friendly style, and he is generous enough not to hog the spotlight. Devlin, Nelson, MacKinnon and LaDue get at least one number that brings depth to their roles. Although Brisby doesn’t have any solo songs, he holds his own, acting with enthusiasm and humor.
Director Locke Capers creates as much atmosphere and drama in dialogue as she does in song-driven scenes. A group discussion in a coffee shop feels just as important as an ensemble number, with simple and effective choreography from Joanne Lovejoy.
As with the case with other premieres, The Geeze and Me will likely be tinkered with and altered following the run in Downtown San Diego. For the most part, the night feels grounded in reality, but some of the scenes can probably be improved.
A funeral that occurs goes on a little too long, with a mean-spirited tone that doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the staging. That being said, Kiera Mersky and Lauren Preski are very funny playing two saleswomen who treat death like a business.
Later on in Act II, Sherry has a subplot involving her mom that quickly moves in bizarre directions. Joe Huppert’s projections and Cynthia Bloodgood’s lighting add likably strange touches. Unfortunately, the visuals don’t mask the fact that Sherry’s dilemma doesn’t have a conclusion. Either the Capers should expand her predicament or take out the short narrative.
On the subject of flaws, Huppert’s miking was occasionally difficult to listen to during the opening night weekend. While pre-recorded tracks blended in well with the performances, there were a few instances where loud static noise was hard to ignore.
In spite of the production running a little too long, there is so much to enjoy and recommend in the numerous tales. This is the kind of eve you’ll want to experience with a parent or grandparent.