Duo's old-age musical provides lots of laughs
By CHARLES RUNNELLS    June 12, 2009    crunnells@news-press.com

If you're under 40, you might not get all the jokes in Compton & Bennett's new show.

But if your knees are shot, if you often forget where you left your keys, if your sex life needs a special little pill - well, then, you just might laugh yourself out of your Jazzy power chair.

"Assisted Living: The Musical!" is an exercise in nontraditional medicine. As the body starts to go, as the pains and aches pile up, sometimes all you can do is laugh.

That's where Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett come in.

Their brand-new cabaret act takes satirical aim at the twilight years, from gout to getting around in a Hoveround. It's all spiced with some clever dialogue, over-the-top performances and hummable songs.

You ought to be able to hum these songs. Most are long-ago hits reworked by Compton & Bennett - Weird Al-style - with all-new, funnier lyrics.

"These Boots Are Made For Walking" becomes "These Halls are Made for Walkers," a song about the dangers of retirement-homes filled with speeding Hoverounds and Jazzies.

"The Day the Music Died" becomes "Key Lime Pie," an ode to retiring in Southwest Florida ("I'm livin' my life on a sunshine high, singing this'll be the place that I die, this'll be the place that I die"). Audience sing-alongs to that and "Going to the Chapel (And I'm Gonna Get Buried)" are two of the most disturbing things I've witnessed in Southwest Florida theater. Yet still very funny.

There's even a medley of mandatory Viagra songs set to the tunes of "Maria" from "West Side Story," "My Boyfriend's Back" and - hilariously - "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" ("In the bedroom, the darkened bedroom, Via-gar-a tonight").

Compton and Bennett do it all with plenty of clever wordplay and irreverent charm. They both sing well - even if they're not always "America Idol"-ready - and Compton plays a mean piano.

Bennett is the go-to gal for characters, and the rubber-faced comedian shines as the cigarette-voiced, kimono-wearing Naomi Lipshitz-Finklestein-Murphy, and as a cackling granny who gleefully plows down puppies and whatever else gets in the way of her Cadillac LS (the "LS" stands for "Life Support").

You've seen all these characters before, of course - there's nothing original about old lady drivers - but this duo performs with so much enthusiasm, it's easy to forgive and forget (something, no doubt, even easier for the over-60 crowd.

No one else does this brand of local satire, and I'm certainly glad these two are here, skewering sacred cows such as Morgan & Morgan law firm (Compton narrates a commercial for lawyers who help you remember injuries you've forgotten about in your old age).

Compton & Bennett's new show isn't an all-around success. An overly long poetry reading, while ultimately amusing, still saps much of the energy from the show.

Plus Naples' Fred's Diner - where the show opened last week - isn't the ideal setting for theater. The room is long and narrow, meaning audience members at either end have poor views of the dimly lit "stage" (really just a corner of the restaurant). I watched from the bar, where I often needed to crane my neck to see what was happening.

Still, the one-hour show is well worth watching, even if you're not exactly its target audience (I'm 38). And the subject matter has obviously touched a common chord. The show is sold out through mid-July.

Compton & Bennett amuse and delight with their clever takes on sagging skin, incontinence and the secret life of walkers.

All that, and the show's over by 9 p.m. - just in time for bed.

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