Off-Broadway Review: “Sunset Village” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Sunset Village” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre (Closed Tuesday, August 7, 2018)
Written by Michael Presley Bobbitt
Directed by Tom Miller
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Sunset Village,” the new play by Michael Presley Bobbitt, is having its premiere as part of the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y. The success of this show will certainly depend on whether it will be carefully marketed to find the correct venue along with the appropriate audience. The best and most noteworthy attribute of the play is the age of most characters, portraying seniors in a retirement community in central Florida. There certainly seems to be an ageism quandary in the present state of theater, with a lack of roles written for older actors.

The script is predictable with an extremely weak dramatic arc and falls victim to the common pitfalls of poor or nearly non-existent structure. Scenes are created to support the broad situation comedy and fall short on character evolution or plot development. The two protagonists Edna (Anna Marie Kirkpatrick), the meek newbie moving into the community, and Mr. Midnight (Shamrock McShane), the renowned sybarite, are exposed as professional retirees who are intelligent, well-traveled, in shape and active. The conjecture that the idle time of discerning seniors is consumed by sex, drugs, alcohol and Walmart pies may be slightly amusing but does not add any depth to a character and cannot support a ninety-minute production. A plausible depiction might also include a gym, volunteer work, museum visits and cultural performances, all of which can provoke irreverent humor. The identity of the structure also struggles with the possibility of becoming an ensemble piece featuring the coping mechanisms for survival, used by each member of the motley “gang” of women; however, to accomplish this, there needs to be extensive character development. Too often the material prompts the actors to fall prey to stereotypical behavior.

The subject matter of the play is certainly fair game and ripe for development, but this incarnation only scratches the surface of what can and should be addressed about the quality of life, grief of loss, struggles of self-acceptance and loneliness which can all be addressed with clever and insightful comedy. Although Mr. Bobbitt has been prompted by personal events in his life that generated his concession to age and mortality, he must realize that the subject is not fresh and that previous products have been quite successful having raised the bar. When the same themes have been addressed by a brilliant sitcom “The Golden Girls,” this new play presently only results in a silver-plated version that does not shine. Hopefully the playwright will continue the journey alongside his saucy seniors and discover the wisdom of their years and the capacity of their hearts.