The old people are revolting — at least on stage.
On Friday, 10 members of the Kenai Performers will debut the comedy “The Old People Are Revolting” written by Devon Williamson.
Donna Shirnberg, one of the cast members and producer of the show, said on Wednesday that she and her daughter chose the play to bring some laughs to the audience.
“We were looking at what we can bring to the community that will be light-hearted and fun, and not really make anybody think — just to be able to escape,” Shirnberg said.
Her daughter Rheaona is directing the performance — her debut.
The play chronicles an uprising among seniors in a retirement village when the local city council votes to remove their utilities discount. After a full-on revolt, the old folks appoint their own queen and adopt a new national anthem while exploring attitudes of senior citizens within the community.
Shirnberg said she appreciates the show for its comedic effect, but also how the play highlights the lives of older community members.
“(Comedy) is kind of one strand that runs through the play,” she said. “The other is just about the perception of seniors and how they’re perceived in the community.”
Shirnberg plays Patricia, a resident of the retirement village and former court clerk who has always dreamed of being involved in a landmark legal decision. Although she was a clerk, she tells other residents she was the magistrate, which ends up coming back to bite her.
“I do like this character,” Shirnberg said. “She has a lot of different layers to her and she has a lot of different relationships with the other cast members.”
The dynamic between characters, she said, makes the play both funny and interesting.
“The whole idea of coming together and staging this revolt brings all of these different personalities that have been thrown into this retirement community, and makes us work together,” Shirnberg said.
Yvette Tappana plays Shirley, who she described as a “70-year-old-hippie.”
“I like her because she’s pretty feisty,” Tappana said.
She said playing Shirley is stepping out of her comfort zone slightly, because her character swears and speaks without a filter.
“She likes to cuss and she’s a little ditsy,” Tappana said. “It was a little difficult at first for me mentally, but definitely not a problem now.”
At first, Tappana wasn’t sure what kind of audience the show was expecting to bring in. Now, she said, she thinks it can be a show for mature audiences of all ages.
“You probably know these people — you’ve got an aunt or grandma somewhere,” she said. “There is somebody you can relate to somewhere.”
Terri Zopf-Schoessler’s character Peggy is one of the quieter matriarch personalities of the play. She crafts — from knitting and crocheting to needlework.
“She’s not as explosive as some of the other characters, but I do have a great time,” Zopf-Schoessler said.
She said a comedy definitely constitutes a different type of performance and head space than other productions.
“Way back in college I was always told that comedy is the most difficult, especially for your people because they take themselves too seriously,” Zopf-Schoessler said. “And now that I am playing in ‘Old People Are Revolting,’ it’s not such a stretch for me to play an old person. It’s just a joy to do a comedy.”
Howie is played by Allen Auxier. The character, he said, is one of the more unfiltered old folks of the play.
“He’s pretty obnoxious, he’s very ironic, has a very good sense of humor,” Auxier said. “And has, we’ll say, some kind of medical condition that causes extreme flatulence, which is part of the story.”
Auxier, who said he’s been involved with the Kenai Performers for over 20 years, said working with a British script has highlighted some of the cultural humor differences he’s used to.
Rob Lewis plays an ex-farmer named Doug, who comes in handy for the revolution.
“When the other cast members are looking for a way to basically revolt against the system, they think Doug’s previous expertise as a farmer will step in and make things go their way,” Lewis said. “Use your imagination there, what kinds of things he has access to and what he knows.”
He said he’s excited to share the play with audiences starting this weekend.
“It’s a really, really funny show,” Lewis said.
Charlissa Magen plays one of the only non-seniors — a reporter named Ashley who chases the story of the revolt in the hopes of breaking her first big national story.
“She’s full of herself, which I am not, so it’s nice playing polar opposite, in my humble opinion,” Magen said.”
As one of the characters outside of the retirement village, Ashley demonstrates her lack of empathy, which is comical, she said.
“I also like her interaction with the older people,” Magen said. “Because she’s so above them as if she’s not going to age and be one of them.”
She said she hopes the audience pays special attention to the dialogue.
“It’s full of giggle nuances, so you have to really listen to the language,” Magen said. “Every time I’m out in the audience listening to my co-cast workers, I still laugh at various spots where you think after three weeks it would not be funny anymore.”
The show headlines Friday at 7 p.m. in the Kenai Performers building at 44045 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna.
The show will run for three consecutive weekends, with shows at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays. Dates of performances will be Jan. 14, 15, and 16 for the first weekend, Jan. 21, 22, and 23 for the second weekend, and Jan. 28, 29 and 30 for the third weekend.
Masks are highly encouraged for audience members.
Tickets are $20 and available at kenaiperformers.org or at the door. To reserve tickets with Shirnberg call 907-398-4205.
Shirnberg said she wanted to remind folks that the show is rated PG-13 for mild language, and that there is one gun shot and one bomb blast sound during the performance.