“Ripcord” director Phil Quevillon promises abundant special effects in the production — including the very first simulated skydiving on the local stage — in the hilarious and moving comedy that opens at The Merc Playhouse on Friday (Sept. 22).
The play traces what Quevillon called a “prank war” between the two main characters, Abby Binder and Marilyn Dunne, who vie for the prime spot — with a view and ample sunshine — in the room they share in the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility.
“Ripcord” includes many twists and turns, and some of the pranks turn quite macabre, Quevillon said. “It’s an extremely hilarious, death-defying comedy,” he said. “We’re asking the audience to suspend a lot of disbelief.”
Abby had the room to herself for four years. When forced to share her quarters with newly arrived Marilyn, she is anything but welcoming. The two women have such contrasting personalities that they immediately get under one another’s skin. Abby is cantankerous and disagreeable, while Marilyn is infuriatingly chipper.
“Ripcord” makes use of the familiar theme of “The Odd Couple,” but adds a variety of unexpected — and moving — twists. A seemingly innocuous bet between the two women quickly escalates into a dangerous game, with each trying to outdo the other one. That innocent game ultimately reveals not just their stubbornness, but also gets at deeper truths.
The cast also includes Scotty, the resident aide at Bristol Place, and members of both women’s families.
New and familiar faces
“Ripcord” features both seasoned actors and three who are new to the stage.
Maggie Jarr plays Marilyn. Tani Erickson, a fitness and dance instructor, is Abby. Both have appeared in previous productions on The Merc stage.
Quevillon encouraged first-time actor Joshua Dodds to put his jovial demeanor to good use. Dodds regularly draws a crowd with his entertaining humor, and it’s great to see him employ that talent in a professional context, Quevillon said. Dodds plays Marilyn’s son-in-law Derek, the Zombie Butler, and the Masked Man.
Wendy Thomas is an attorney who’s always had an affinity for the stage. While she’s been on stage as a singer, the role of Marilyn’s daughter Colleen is her first time acting.
Dan Kirkmire has “a lot of raw talent,” Quevillon said, noting that Kirkmire makes big, bold choices playing the roles of Lewis, the flight instructor; the Crazy Clown; and Abby’s son Benjamin.
In addition to directing, Quevillon plays resident aide Scotty.
Quevillon extended a “big shout-out” to stage manager Orlo Parkinson for keeping everything running smoothly. The North Cascades Smokejumper Base lent jump harnesses and flight helmets for the skydiving stunt.
“Ripcord” is Quevillon’s fourth directorship at The Merc, and his sixth time on the stage. He has a background in theater and comedic improv.
“Ripcord,” by David Lindsay-Abaire, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play “Rabbit Hole,” got unanimously high scores from the dozen people on The Merc’s programming committee, which selects the plays that end up on stage.
Ripcord performances are at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (Sept. 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30), and 2 p.m. on Sundays (Oct. 1 and 8). Admission is $18; or by donation on Sept. 22 and 29. Buy tickets online at www.mercplayhouse.org/202223-season.