A review of “Return To Sunset Village,” Currently playing at the Gainesville Community Playhouse.
Sinatra: Love is lovelier the second time around.
Edna: Put a sock in it, blue eyes.
She married the first guy she ever kissed and lived in his shadow for 43 years.
Widowed, she decamped to Sunset Village and, walking on the wild side for the first time in her life, allowed herself to be seduced by the village lothario.
Only to see him turn into her first husband.
Gainesville playwright Michael Presley Bobbitt introduced us to the travails of Edna and Mr. Midnight in his 2018 play “Sunset Village.” It was so well received that it premiered off Broadway before coming home to Gainesville.
Having since gone off to live the island life in Cedar Key, Bobbitt wants us to know what’s become of his tribe of delightfully decadent seniors since a collapsed sinkhole left them sitting in the dark amid the rubble.
Hence “Return To Sunset Village,” now enjoying its premier run at the Gainesville Community Playhouse. (For play dates and ticket info go to http://www.gcplayhouse.org.)
And, listen, it hasn’t been all martinis and Metamucil.
Another sinkhole swallowed up the Realtor who sold the gang their retirement villas (poetic justice?).
And a developer with a thing for helicopters and Kung Fu is building 3,000 new “little boxes” on land where the bunnies and birds once frolicked.
And our hardy band of Sunset commandos are so mad about it they’re ready to go to war…in their best bloomers.
But back to Edna and Mr. Midnight.
Anna Marie Kirkpatrick and Shamrock McShane have returned to the roles they originated in “Sunset Village.” And it’s fair to say that both have gotten better with age.
But now Edna knows the truth of the old adage “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” And eager-to-please Midnight is driving her up their townhouse walls.
Edna mentioned that she likes birdwatching. So Midnight built her a birdhouse big enough to accommodate ostriches.
I like “tiny little hummingbirds!” Edna explodes.
In some respects “Return” lacks the crispness and sharp humor of its predecessor. Perhaps that’s because “Sunset Village” feasted on the rich broth of lewd cliches and suburban legends derived from its real-life model, The Villages.
In contrast, the sequel is more a morality play and less a stand-up comedy routine. Along the way Bobbitt tosses in references to the plight of Florida’s springs, the algae choked “cesspool” known as Lake Okeechobee, and, of course, the epidemic of sinkholes that may or may not be linked to overdevelopment.
Some of that stuff simply isn’t funny, but we still need to know about it.
Still, this is a game cast, and they make the most of what they have to work with in this “central Florida Babylon.” And that’s still quite a bit, including “drop it like it’s hot weight loss hip-hop” regimes and a seduction couch plopped down in the middle of a field.
Loic Robertson is especially fun to watch as Tommy, the frantic village employee who teaches everything from pole dancing to gardening and still manages to report the news in his spare time. And he has an outrageous outfit for each endeavor.
How many jobs does this guy have?
“All of them apparently,” Tommy sighs.
Also worthy of note are Debora Salmi’s much-divorced Mikayla and Chuck Martin as Curtis, the greedy developer with a heart of nougat. Curtis sweeps Mikayla off her feet when she shows up at his door dressed like a bald eagle. After that it’s all lemonade and nunchucks.
Also returning from the original cast is Gay Hale as Great Granda Caroline. She has a thing for Dick Nixon, thinks underwear is a “conspiracy by big cotton” and cuts an heroic figure laced into a leather corset atop her motorized wheelchair.
Listen, comedy is hard and sequels can be tough to pull off. But life goes on in Sunset Village, and it’s worth this return visit to catch up.