Luigi Creatore, 87, is best known as a songwriter (“Can’t Help Falling in Love” for Elvis). But musical theater mavens may recall that he co-wrote (with long-time partner Hugo Peretti) a fine score for the short-lived 1968 Broadway musical “Maggie Flynn.” Creatore retired to Florida in 1981, where he was evidently inspired to write three one-act plays under the umbrella title “Flamingo Court.” First produced at the Boca Raton Community Theater, these plays are now getting a bit of northern exposure. A first rate cast of five senior members of the acting profession, under the warmly conspiring direction of Steven Yuhasz, has been assembled for a breezy and surprisingly endearing triple-play that celebrates the spunk in our aging citizenry.
Set in three separate apartments in a South Florida condo, these plays offer theater veterans Jamie Farr, Anita Gillette, Lucy Martin, Herbert Rubens, and Joe Vincent opportunities to portray multiple characters with all the crafty expertise their considerable stage experience has empowered them. For their collective cavorting, James Youmans has designed a handsome unit set (brightly exposed by lighting designer Herrick Goldman) that easily functions as three modern apartments. Costume designer Carol Sherry brings tropical flair to the cast’s attire.
In the first play, Angelina (Gillette), an attractive woman somewhere between 60 and whatever, enjoys her soap operas and the ritual of afternoon tea with her similarly mature friends and neighbors Marie (Lucy Martin), an inveterate matchmaker, and Dominic (Jamie Farr), an incurable romantic who doesn’t pretend to hide his mad crush on Angelina. Angelina is inclined to welcome Dominic’s advances despite the fact that she claims to have a very needy and ill husband confined to his bed and who, however, no one has ever seen. What gives?
In the second play, Arthur (Farr) is trying to prepare his wife, Clara, for the inevitable move to a nursing home, where they can better cope with her rapidly advancing dementia. Clara’s solution provides a sobering middle section for an evening that otherwise relies mainly on cheery chatter and zany behavior. In the third play, Harry (Farr) is past his prime but not past the urge to procure a hooker (Gillette) with the help of a hearing aid salesman (Rubens). He also has his hands full outwitting his conniving daughter (Martin) and her husband (Vincent) who are attempting to get control of his money.
Midsummer isn’t the time of year when one expects to welcome a great new work of dramatic literature. Let’s agree that it’s too darn hot to think about serious matters and that it’s okay to allow ourselves the guilty pleasure of enjoying a comedy that makes no excuses for its inanities and improbabilities. It would be very easy to dismiss these three extended skits as negligible, predictable, and even insufferable were it not for the endearing humor and basic integrity that lies at the heart of them. And what a treat to have screen and theater veteran Farr (best known as Corporal Max Klinger on the hit 1973 to 1983 CBS series M*A*S*H) bring his incomparable comedic dexterity to these plays, playing a vigorous suitor, a devoted husband, and a decrepit lothario, each with a distinct individuality and aplomb.
Gillette, who scored so memorably as Mona the mistress in “Moonstruck,” and has appeared in 14 Broadway shows, gives a delightful snap to her diverse roles as the charmingly perplexed Angelina, the poignantly deteriorating Laura, and finally as the blonde bombshell hooker in gold lame toreadors known as Chi Chi. Martin, Vincent and Rubens also score in their assigned roles.
This is no musical, but Gillette, who is currently Tina Fey’s mother on “30 Rock” and Marg Helgenberger’s mother on “CSI,” sings “Give My Regards to Broadway” in the middle play, reminding us that she was the darling of many a musical from her debut in “Gypsy” through a succession including “Carnival,” “All American,” “Mr. President,” “The Gay Life,” and “They’re Playing Our Song.” “Flamingo Court” is no great shakes as a play(s), but it is sure to make those of retirement age and beyond shake with hearty and heartfelt laughter.
— Simon Saltzman
“Flamingo Court,” New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street. $57 to $72. 212-239-6200.