If you think elderly women are way beyond an acceptable age for sporting dirty mouths, ostentatious outfits and spontaneous flings with younger men, then Bermuda Avenue Triangle is definitely not the play for you. Breaking down age-old stereotypes, this comedy — now running at Asheville Community Theatre — proves that, “You’re never too old to do what you think you’re too old to do!”
The play — written by husband-and-wife team Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna and directed locally by David Matthews — initially brooks the issue of how to deal with one’s aging parents. Specifically, it shows two middle-aged women relocating their elderly mothers to an apartment in Las Vegas. Perhaps not surprisingly, the older women are miserable at first, and unable to give their new home a chance, being too busy projecting their lifelong disappointments onto their present situation. Looking back on their lives, Tess (Norma Holt-Rugile) and Fanny (Shirley Cohen) resent their late husbands, begrudge the societal roles they feel were forced upon them, and bemoan the lack of appreciation and affection they received as wives and mothers.
Happily, all of these emotions are soon funneled elsewhere, thanks to a fortuitous meeting and a series of unlikely occurrences. Johnny (Bernie Hauserman), an alcoholic gambler, con artist and consummate Romeo, uses his naturally sweet nature to seduce the older women — into falling in love with the world around them.
The play uses comic and somewhat racy situations to follow the protagonists’ transformation. Holt-Rugile and Cohen do a great job portraying the respective accents and cultural mannerisms of the Italian and Jewish immigrant generation. The play’s ethnic identity is also enhanced by the character of Rabbi Levine (Gene O’Hare). These strong character portraits aid a steady stream of hilarious coincidences in helping the viewer sympathize not only with the two women’s former predicaments, but also with their sudden sensual awakening, as the double-dealing Johnny gleefully romances both (though they live together, each is unaware of what the other one is up to).
Those who feel safest in an excessively politically correct environment may balk at the play’s irreverent treatment of age, gender and cultural heritage. This perspective, however, gets in the way of the more transcendent message of personal growth. In his playbill note, Matthews explains, “Everyone in this piece is affected and changed to some degree by the most powerful force in the universe, love.”
Ultimately, Tess and Fanny end up feeling good about themselves, become able to view their pasts with humor and forgiveness, and — for the first time — express their love to their daughters. While the morality call is up to each viewer, of course, the play itself rolls its eyes at rigid rules, teaching that it’s way more important to be happy.
The play runs April 28-30 at Asheville Community Theatre (35 E. Walnut St.). Friday and Saturday evening performances ($15) begin at 8 p.m. A Sunday matinee ($13) begins at 2:30 p.m. For more info, call the Box Office at 254-1320.