'Assisted Living' a musical that's aging gracefully By:Leslie Katz /San Francisco Examiner | Arts editor | 07/10/11 6:08 PM
Dim sum theater: "Assisted Living: The Musical," playing weekends through the end of the month at the Imperial Palace, also provides attendees with a Chinese buffet.
Gentle, funny and touching on topics near and dear to baby boomers and their parents - that's "Assisted Living: The Musical."
Sometimes slight but often sweet, the three-person, 75-minute show about life in a retirement home is appropriately running for lunch and early-bird dinner shows on weekends (sharing space with "Tony and Tina's Wedding") in Chinatown's Imperial Palace. Each performance offers a plentiful and serviceable, if not gourmet, multi-course Chinese buffet.
But giggles and food for thought are offered up in what's essentially a revue, featuring the affable and versatile Zoe Conner and Bob Greene as Marge and Andy, residents of a retirement facility called Pelican Roost, and accompanist Robbie Cowan on keyboards as their nephew. ("Those piano lessons paid off," Marge beams.)
An expected, and admittedly amusing bit, comes about one-third into the show.
"The Uplifting Viagra Medley" boasts riffs about the infamous little blue pill, set to famous tunes: - "Volare," "They Call the Wind Mariah," "Blueberry Hill," "Up Up and Away" - like in "Menopause the Musical."
Yet the show's creators, Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett, who wrote and acted in the original successful dinner theater production in Florida, dig deeper in some of the other numbers: Dealing with walkers, for example, comes up in "Help! I've Fallen for You and I Can't Get Up" and "Goin' Mobile."
Blues melodies nicely accompany many songs, as in "Lost My Dentures on Steak Night Blues" and the show's best number, "A Ton and a Half of Cadillac Steel" about how a 90ish-year-old driver, despite highly diminished skills including lack of vision, still loves his time out on the road.
Other themes hit nerves, too: The "President of the Owners Association" tells the seemingly universal story about condominium dwellers who start with the best intentions, but end up wanting to kill their fellow residents.
Online dating for elders comes up in "WalkerDude@Facebook.com," in which the character seeks "a man with endurance and private insurance," while "Hypochondriacal" touches on the fear of ailments from hangnails to emphysema.
A few additional returning characters - Naomi Lipshitz Yamamoto Murphy, a Pelican Roost resident who also handles real estate sales for the place, and a sleazy lawyer in a cowboy hat working in the specialized field of "injury remembrance" - add a bit of fun, but not a lot of heft, to the proceedings.
The show nears its end with a rousing ditty called "The AARP," dedicated to the attentive organization that, through daily mail pieces and electronics makes sure seniors' needs are met. Conner and Greene gleefully fling envelopes into the audience, ending the show in upbeat spirits before reprising the show's opening "Pelican Roost" theme, as visitors leave the festivities in a fine mood.