Review: Comedy duo targets old age in sizzling satire
"Assisted Living: The Musical" parodies growing old disgracefully
By CHRIS SILK
Monday, July 20, 2009
The small and slightly crowded Fred's Diner off Immokalee Road is the epicenter of a Neapolitan comedy renaissance these days. Blue hair and pacemakers are the topics du jour as Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett skewer the golden years in their latest parody "Assisted Living: The Musical," a laugh-out-loud look at old age and growing gray disgracefully.
The pair have been writing and performing around Naples for more than 10 years. Their latest satire scythes through the antiseptic hallways of old age while finding fresh ways to say the same old things about sagging skin, Depends and dentures.
Compton & Bennett's shows lean heavily on parody, borrowing liberally from the catchy hooks of pop songs far and wide. The breezy 16-song repertoire whips by in about an hour - starting with a big helping of "Key Lime Pie." Based on Don McLean's iconic "American Pie," the number comes complete with lyrics in the vein of "drove my Lexus to the nexus of the tropical sky" and offers an early indication of where the night might be headed.
It is pretty much all downhill (or up, considering) from there. "My Hide" is a plaintive ode to plastic surgery sung to the tune of the "Rawhide" TV theme tune. "Nip it up, shoot it up, suck it up, suck it out, my hide!" Paeans to dentures, walkers and matrons driving Cadillacs follow. Head down to Devoe and grab the new Caddy LS - where the LS stands for life support!
While silly and oftentimes a bit over the top, "Assisted Living" contains some literate surprises. One of the night's more poetic moments comes when Bennett offers up a dramatic retelling of a nursing home politics and underhanded scheming called "The Saga of Room 309." Set in iambic pentameter and given life in her rich voice, the scene is a picture of sliced oxygen lines, runaway wheelchairs and gasping heart attacks brought to vivid, hacking life. Laughter comes quickly, easily and often with a roar.
There's plenty to like about the show - a hybrid of cabaret, comedy and theater that dances in many realms without stopping in any particular one. Props, including the obligatory walker, figure into the show, especially a stormy Nancy Sinatra parody "These Halls Are Made For Walkers." "These halls are made for walkers, that's what the brochure said; but a walker in the hallways, and you'll surely wind up dead!"
Not surprisingly, Viagra provides the night's most uplifting moments, pun fully intended. The duo runs through every musical genre - including gospel, show tunes and country - and back again in a gleefully rousing medley to Pfizer's little blue pill. One particularly memorable line? "There's no Agra like Viagra!"
If there is a downside to the show, it is that there's not more to it. The limits of a two-person show, with one performer, Compton, usually tied keyboard, do present challenges, especially in trying to convey movement without a large cast. I was mentally choreographing a high-kicking line of chorus girls clad in bright blue wigs and shawls hoofing it to the strains of "Key Lime Pie," or a toe-tapping brigade of dapper duffers clanking walkers in unison back and forth across the stage during "These Halls Are Made For Walkers." The hopscotch quality of the vignettes can also leave the show feeling a bit erratic, although it moves far too quickly for this to be a real problem.
The clever "Assisted Living" brings a pathos and humor to the very real issues of aging. The cabaret proves as good a venue as any to help audiences laugh at wrinkled skin, bedpans and oxygen tanks.