The Sweet Spot

Joel Leffert and Nichols in a scene from The Sweet Spot. Photo by Basil Rodericks
The Sweet Spot, now at the postage stamp-sized Theatre C at 59E59, is an earnest play.  Alice Jankel takes us into that moment when life changes for a well-married couple.  The thing they have been considering for “Some Day” is now upon them.  Move into a retirement community while they still have a spring in their step or wait until it is too late to do anything else. Jerry (Joel Leffert) and Vita (Nancy Nichols) live in the same apartment where they moved after they were first married.  They raised their children there and welcomed grandchildren.  Now, one of their grandchildren is having a baby, and the two of them are becoming great-grandparents.  We meet them on the morning they are expecting THE CALL which will come in on their landline for some reason – they both have mobile phones – on which they do not have call waiting (is that even possible?).  While waiting for THE CALL Vita gets another from the manager of a retirement community – The Dolce Vita – who has called with the news that a two-bedroom unit has just opened up, and they are at the top of the list. Vita is against it and Jerry FOR.  Vita does not want to be old.  Jerry says they already are. Jankell raises critical points that people of a certain age start to feel, whether they admit it or not.  People out there making decisions are all younger – I call them “the smooth people.”  Politicians, writers, artists.  Everyone is younger – and what the hell do you do about that? In this play, however, there is little or no action.  As in we never see the tipping point for Vita.  We never see them packing up the things – deciding what has to go and what will travel with.  I still remember cataloging my mother’s house with my sister so that all the siblings could have a look at the list and ask for what they wanted.  My mother was home that day, and with every other item we listed on our spreadsheet Mumma had a story.  Who gave her that piece and when and then a memory to go with it.  Not much of that going on here, with the exception of a tiny ceramic pot. I think, however, that the packing up could have been the central event to which we all would have liked to be privy.  We do get a few glimpses of their younger selves in the form of Nancy Nichols and Gabriel Tysdahl, who play Vita and Jerry.  These forays have their charm but don’t do much to move the plot along. As Vita says, “It’s about leaving the prime of our lives. Leaving our ‘time’, leaving our ‘turn’. It’s saying, ‘Our turn here is done. It’s somebody else’s turn to lead, to innovate, to trend-set.”  Minutes later, she changed her mind.  We don’t see the change happening to her, and we never see the resolution of that.  How do they plan to start over as a team? How will they make it work? We never see them entering that next chapter – and there are a lot of us out here who would like a bit of guidance on that subject. Here, however, the characters never quite connect.  Perhaps it was the preview jitters, but I never believed these two were married.  Page Clements’ direction does little to glue the pieces together. As it is, the story ends much as it began: two old lovers nattering at one another.  Not much to see there.
The Cast of The Sweet Spot (photo courtesy 59e59.org)

The Cast of The Sweet Spot (photo courtesy 59e59.org)

THE SWEET SPOT, presented by American Bard Theater Company. Written by Alice Jankell and directed by Page Clements, WITH Joel Leffert, Tasha Milkman, Nancy Nichols  and Gabriel Rysdahl. Scenic design by Robert L. Dutiel, costume design by Debbi Hobson, sound design by Jeanne Travis, props design by Seth Mazlin, and fight & intimacy direction by Marcus Watson. At 59E59 through January 27. Readers may also enjoy reviews of The Days of Wine and RosesA Star Without a NameGodzilla’s Prince at Pangea, and Aging is Not a Fairy Tale.

The Sweet Spot

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