First, let's get a couple of misconceptions out of the way about this play: none of the five ladies of a certain age meeting daily to chat have blue rinses (they are
far too 21st-century for that) and the Green Park Bench refers to the seats
(of which there are two) rather than the location (ie, it's not Green Park, London,
but a park in central New York).
These details matters little, of course, for John Penzotti's bittersweet comedy is an
everyman (or should that be every-woman?) story of rites-of-passage: a sort
of Golden Girls meets Heaven's Gate. The five old dears had their moments in life - in careers, relationships, families - but they are all ultimately unfulfilled. The question now is, will they be able to find true happiness after death?
All are painted very differently - both physically and in their
personalities. Field's Anna is trim and immaculately turned out but
struggling to deal with the onset of Alzheimer's. Charleston's Rose, the closet (at least from her four friends) lesbian still blames herself for a public show of affection which cost her lover her life to a bunch of queer bashers. Then there's Brown's La-La, the second-division club singer who's still banking on one more comeback opportunity; Madoc's Gladys, brow-beaten after years with her devoted but dull husband; and Fergusson's Eva, the upright socialite now bent double with grief at her
late husband's infidelities and her inability to have children.
As the women reveal their stories to each other in a series of elegantly-crafted
mini-biographies, they expose strengths and weaknesses so touchingly
that they achieve the ultimate - they become real people that we can truly
care about. Penzotti's script gives each plenty of scope, with some great
one-liners and moments of poignancy in 20/20 hindsight.
Their collective second chances come after the interval when they meet again the key
figures from their lives - either a lover, errant husband, theatrical agent or
a brother who died too young - on the "other side". Okay, it might all be a little schmaltzy at times, but Five Blue Haired Ladies is nevertheless a charming, gentle comedy of the here and hereafter.