Community Players’ “Ripcord” Lands Just the Right Tone 

by Chris Berger

Since I had neither read nor seen Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire and knew virtually nothing about it, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this play. I had also never been to a Community Players show in Beatrice, Nebraska. I am happy to report that both are just delightful and well worth your time!

The Community Players Theatre is one of those buildings that is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, which is really nice. Artistic Director Jamie Ulmer was greeting everyone at the door, and in the lobby they have concessions (for which I am a total sucker). The theatre itself seats 200. There were plenty of ushers to help us find our seats, and the music they played before the show and between scenes I thought really added a nice touch; good music selection.

Physically the show is a one-set show, but there are two exceptions. At one point the ladies go through a haunted house and then they go skydiving. These were both done on the sides and the front of the stage and lit to specifically highlight those areas. The haunted house “set” was a neat use of the stage and the skydiving scene was clever and funny. The main set of Abby and Marilyn’s room is well done and well-lit with a cozy but still institutional look.     

As for the play itself, the Community Players synopsis for Ripcord has this to say: 

“Abby used to be the sole occupant of the sunniest room in the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility…but then the infuriatingly chipper Marilyn moved in.  A seemingly harmless bet between the two old women quickly escalates into a dangerous and hilarious game of one-upmanship that reveals the tenacity of the opponents and the deeper truths that each would rather remain hidden.” 

Ripcord is a comedy in 2 acts directed by Jamie Ulmer, who is also the Community Players Managing Artistic Director. 

The story revolves around Abby and Marilyn, two unlikely roommates in the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. Abby has been at the facility awhile, but Marilyn is fairly new. Abby has a history of either living alone or getting her roommates kicked out and intends to do the same to Marilyn. Marilyn isn’t going anywhere and insists on being Abby’s friend. So the two make a bet where if Marilyn wins she stays, but if she loses, she leaves. Our investment in the believability of the relationship between Abby and Marilyn and the chemistry of the two lead actresses, Shelley Keebler and Diane Kahnk is central and key to this play. Both actresses do a wonderful job portraying these characters and have excellent chemistry together. 

Shelley Keebler as Abby Binder does a really great job at making a character that could easily be played as really annoying and utterly unlikeable into a semi-lovable pain-in-the-butt who has obvious walls and defense mechanisms up to keep people at bay. She evokes sympathy for Abby through her performance of a woman who has been burned too many times by a loved one and whose life has not turned out like she had hoped. Abby has turned into a bitter person and a pessimist, but Keebler keeps her likeable and redeemable.  

Diane Kahnk as Marilyn Dunne turns in a fun and free-spirited performance and is clearly having a great time. She is very funny and is a great foil for Abby. She does a nice job at portraying a lovable and strong character with an unbreakable spirit. She’s been through more than a few things in her life, but she has not let them drag down her optimistic and adventurous nature. 

Sterling Johnson as Scotty is very funny in his own right as a put-upon resident aide that is always eager to help and has really good chemistry with Abby and Marilyn. Scotty has a scene with Marilyn in the bathroom that is an absolute laugh riot! Well done!

Mason Gustafson was great as the Clown and hilarious as Lewis the jump instructor, but he really excelled as Benjamin, Abby’s son. The scene where Benjamin shows up to talk to his mother, Abby, is heartbreaking, and Mason is spot on. 

Ruth Kohtz Ek and Brandon Clark play Colleen and Derek, respectively. Colleen is Marilyn’s daughter and Derek is Colleen’s husband. The two of them make a fun and cute couple and are good together. Ruth is unrecognizable in her second role as the “Woman in White” as is Brandon in his two other roles as the very funny Zombie Butler and the Masked Man. 

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I will give this a thumbs-up and recommend it for anyone who likes comedy over the age of 6. It’s broad and funny and well done and makes a great night out at the theatre! Well done, Community Players!

If you go: Ripcord plays at the Community Players theatre at 412 Ella St Beatrice, NE 68310 on Saturday, Oct.19 at 7:30 p.m,  Sunday, Oct.20 at 2 p.m., Friday, Oct.25 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct.26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct.27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online, by phone at (402) 228-1801, and at the Community Players box office.  

Chris Berger is an actor from the Kansas City area who now lives in Louisville, NE, and works in Springfield, NE. Chris has been acting in and around Omaha for about 5 years now and has been a member of a comedy singing pirate group called The Jolly Rogers that travels the country since 1991. Right now Chris is involved in OCP’s A Christmas Carol for his fourth season (’16-’18 as Bob Cratchit and ’19 as the Ghost of Christmas Present). Chris, along with his wife Sheri, are the hosts of The Platte River Bard podcast, a podcast that interviews people in the Nebraska/Midwestern theatre and arts world. Find them on iTunes and Podbean.

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