By Nick Raio; Directed by Michelle Kristine Best
Produced by Two Headed Dragon Productions
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #11: 64E4 MAINSTAGE, 64 East 4th Street
by Rachel Lepore on 8.20.16
Simone Lazer and Judy Bennett in Sheila and Angelo. Photo by Michelle Best.
BOTTOM LINE: Sheila & Angelo intermingles comedy and tragedy as it follows the lives of an elderly couple in a retirement home.
The show kicks off with a bang as Angelo (Dan Grimaldi), having just taken some new ED medication, finds himself in great discomfort when his erection won’t go down. His spitfire of a wife Sheila (Lynda Rodolitz) brings him to a hospital and while there, brings up a lump she has found in her groin. As the tension of the looming diagnosis rises, so do the laughs, as the couple deals with some gossiping neighbors (Judy Bruno Baker, Ed Kershen, and Simone Lazer), a flirtatious new addition to Angelo’s poker games, and Sheila’s nearly deaf sister.
Starring and written by a team of creatives who are mostly past retirement age, the show accurately captures both the humor and anguish of growing old, and often growing ill, with the ones you’ve loved your whole life. The script is clearly new, with a few pacing problems in the middle and an ending that seems to hit very suddenly, but Raio’s vision is clear and manages to reach even the hearts of those too young to fully empathize with what’s at stake.
The performances are hilarious and touching, with special mention to Grimaldi and Rodolitz. Their embodiment of a long-term couple was so accurate in its comedy and boundless love that the tragedy of their struggles was that much more heart-wrenching. Seeing their performances, it's easy to wish that the script would focus a bit less on the gossipy yenta gags and a bit more on their thoughts and dynamic as a couple, especially in the latter half of the show.
In the end, this new play shows great promise. It cannot go without saying that the audience surrounding me, most of whom appeared to be 60+ themselves, clearly loved and connected with the piece. The production is filled with great warmth, clear to anyone who witnesses it. I would especially recommend Sheila & Angelo to any Fringe-goers either in retirement or seeking it soon. Both the laughs and tears are most certainly meant for you.
(Sheila and Angelo plays at VENUE #11: 64E4 MAINSTAGE, 64 East 4th Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Tue 8/16 at 2:45; Fri 8/19 at 7; Mon 8/22 at 5; Thu 8/25 at 3; and Sat 8/27 at 9. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit sheilaandangelo.com.)
Sheila & Angelo is by Nick Raio. Directed by Michelle Kristine Best. Set Design is by Chris Cumberbatch. Technical Design is by Michael Cardamone.
The cast is Lynda Rodolitz, Dan Grimaldi, Judy Bruno Bennett, Ed Kershen, and Simone Lazer