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.” Rosann Babontin of Cambria 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 Pater, 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 Cambrians 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. Writer/director Balbontin, the proprietor of Potter Books, and all but one of the actors are Cambrians, and their stage experiences range from novice to pro. Nancy Green, who has been seen in numerous shows on the Central Coast, plays Anne, the centerpiece role, and she 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 the straight roles, and a bit bland. Grandson Gabe and his girlfriend Carol are played by Jonathan Wilson and Sarah Smith, Coast Union High School students. They began their promising acting careers in the school’s musicals.
The handsome set, the Paters’ den, is designed by Art Van Rhyn.
On opening night, just before the play began, a behind-the-scenes voice advised the audience to turn off cell phones and said, “you might want to turn hearing aids up.” People laughed, but it turned out to be good advice, as the acoustics in the Theatre at the Old Grammar School are less than perfect, and the actors had no mikes or amplification. Praver and Green didn’t need any, as they projected well and spoke clearly, but the dialogue of the daughters was delivered in much softer tones and they spoke faster, so some of the lines were difficult to understand. Hopefully, by the time this comes out, the problem will have been solved.