Playwright Ian McRae has tapped into one of today’s hot button issues: where happens after retirement? Especially if you’re still healthy, full of vim and vigor, and young at heart? The clock may tick you out, but maybe you’re not quite ready for such an easy dismissal. Change is inevitable, but the changes that take place in the Conlin household may just go over the top.
Frank Conlin (Dann Florek) is all set to celebrate his retirement dinner with reluctant wife Stella (Gina Hecht) in tow. He has been planning for this moment for months and, encouraged by his doomsday prepper friend Stew (Maury Sterling), has launched head-first into a new hobby. Unfortunately, his latest passion entailed draining the family swimming pool, which Stella loved, and building an underground bunker smack in the middle. But Stella has also begun to foster some new interests. Inspired by her best friend Margie (Lee Garlington) to become a liberated, sexualized, independent woman, Stella has turned to acting in a local play with the frisky name of “The Vagina Tales.” Neither is especially happy with their spouse’s choices to launch a new beginning to a retired life.
THE JOY WHEEL is an uproarious peek into the upside-down life of the Conlins at this tumultuous moment in their existence. Get ready to chuckle, chortle, and even guffaw during this hilarious story of people seeking some new in the old. McRae has penned a raucous, sexy, and hysterical comedy which will entertain and delight. AUDIENCE ALERT: This play is definitely X-rated; keep the kiddies at home.
Talented actor/director Jason Alexander keeps the laughs coming and the tale unraveling with gusto. Never a dull moment is the slogan of the day. The excellent cast headed by Dann Florek lets the comic ball roll, never failing to milk every line for what it’s worth. John Iacovelli’s clever scenic design is homey, but also flexible, allowing scene changes in minutes. The entire production team does a bang-up job of keeping the focus on fun.
In many ways, THE JOY WHEEL has the feel of a TV sitcom without that pesky television screen getting in the way. Character development is not big, but mirth and merriment are. This is a play to tickle your funny bone, not drive home any deep messages. Leave your troubles at the door and enter the very funny world of the Conlins as they navigate some senior issues that may feel very real to many audience members. THE JOY WHEEL is, above all, an entertaining and often sidesplitting show about people trying to adapt to change.
THE JOY WHEEL runs through March 24, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $30-$35 (groups of six or more $26). For information and reservations, call 310-397-3244 or go online.