Many of us, in the midst of some drama in our family, have said, “My life is like a soap opera,” or “this is a farce.”
Cambria playwright Rosann Babontin has taken the analogy a step further and turned a family situation into a situation comedy. “Bridging the Gap” takes a chapter in life that seemed serious at the time and, in retrospect, mines it for its humor.
Anne and Dick Prater, longtime empty nesters, are still in the large house they have lived in for 30 years. The Inglewood neighborhood is decaying, with druggies next door and dangerous streets at night. Their two daughters, Suzanne and Helen, are urging them to make a will and a trust and move to a retirement community. Their father thinks it’s a good idea, but Anne digs in, and cries whenever the move is mentioned.
It’s a familiar scenario that is played out in many families, and many of us of a certain age will surely relate to it. So, how is it a comedy? The playwright gives the mother an over-the-top personality, her stubbornness seasoned with a likable nuttiness. The dialogue, especially between husband and wife, is witty, and some comic elements are thrown in — such as a next-door parrot that mimics Anne and a hive of bees in the kitchen wall.
There are also a few poignant moments as family secrets are revealed, giving the characters some warmth.
The play is a homegrown production, presented by Allied Arts of Cambria in the small theater in what’s now called The Old Grammar School. The school on Main Street was replaced with a larger one on a hill behind the town. Writer-director Balbontin, the proprietor of Potter Books, and all but one of the actors are Cambrians, and their stage experience ranges from novice to pro. Nancy Green, who has been seen in numerous shows on the Central Coast, is good as Anne, the centerpiece role, and makes her both funny and frustrating. Her eccentricities, such as collecting lost hubcaps and using old calendars—getting her appointment dates mixed up — are comical. There’s no indication whether Anne has always been this way or whether aging is responsible — or maybe it’s a bit of both.
In any case, her husband, played by Jerry Praver in his first stage role, is a willing foil, and their banter is amusing.
Diane M. Steele and Sandy Bosworth, both experienced actors, play daughters Suzanne and Helen. Their roles are straight and a bit bland. The supporting roles of grandson Gabe and his girlfriend Carol are played by Jonathan Wilson and Sarah Smith, Coast Union High School students. They began their acting careers in the school’s musicals, where a number of promising Central Coast actors got their start.
The handsome set, the Paters’ den, is designed by Art VanRhyn.
A fine art exhibition by Allied Arts artists decorates the halls of the Old Grammar School.