BY SANDY STAGGS
If “The Golden Girls” was rebooted today, it would look much like “Four Old Broads,” the clever geriatric comedy now causing mayhem through Sept. 23 at Centre Stage.
Not to be confused with “These Old Broads” – the Carrie Fisher-penned television movie with Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins – “Four Old Broads” is set north of Miami somewhere in Georgia as its four titular characters spend their sunset years at Shady Pines …errr Magnolia Place, an assisted living facility.
Instead of Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia, “Four Old Broads,” the laugh-fest by Leslie Kimbell that nabbed the 2016 New Play Festival prize last year, features the saucy former burlesque queen Beatrice (the always-dynamite Cindy Mixon); the steadfast devout Christian, Eaddy (the maternal Jan Anderson); the meek and early dementia sufferer Imogene (Linda Forrest); and frumpy wallflower and soap opera addict Maude (played by frequent Stage Manager JeanE Bartlett in a rare stage appearance).
The good-time gal Beatrice is dying – well, yearning – to go on a singles cruise and implores her best friend Eaddy to come along. But their Atlantic vacation plans are nearly derailed when new resident Imogene (lugging around an oxygen tank) begins exhibiting memory lapses. And to prevent her from being sent to the ward known as The Dark Side, they cover for her whenever the bitchy new nurse/administrator (Cindy Thompson) comes into the picture.
Suspecting something sinister in Imogene’s medication, the ladies embark on a “Charlie’s Angels”-worthy mystery caper with the aid of actor Peter Godfrey’s hilarious Sam (short for Smooth And ready to Mingle), the aggressive, fast-talking Romeo with erectile dysfunction and a pacemaker and who has bedded nearly every woman at Magnolia Place.
And they find time to coax Maude out of her housecoat and away from her Funeral Planner binder and daytime serial “A Search for Love,” give her an atrocious makeover and enter her into the Miss Magnolia Place beauty pageant.
In a fit-to-be-tied performance, Mixon nearly steals the play and gives the foul-mouthed, cocktail-swilling Beatrice mountains of sass and heart. And Anderson is charming and indelible when she insists on being the “Farrah” in their gumshoe trio, and with shades of the born-again Annelle in “Steel Magnolias,” constantly breaks out in prayer. In addition, no one could resist her air of sincerity and concern when she says some two dozen times, “I’m not trying to get in your personal business, but . . .”
Forrest is a model of modesty and master of understated humor and Bartlett is just plain hilarious.
And last but certainly not least, Jenni Baldwin gives assurance to the role of Ruby Sue, the omnipresent Southern nurse aide who takes the brunt of Pat’s condescending punishment.
This play, directed with astute attention to the most minute of comedic detail, doesn’t sustain much real mystery and the unveiling is a bit of a letdown, but there is a nice twist ending. Besides, this play is all about the humorous journey of getting there and four perky, vibrant and independent women who show that you’re never too old to enjoy life.
The set design of “Four Old Broads” was conceived by Rebekah Brock; hair and make-up by Victor DeLeon; costumes by Tiffany Nave, props by Channin Petit, scenic painting by Ashley Tisdale; lighting design by Taylor Jensen; assistant lighting designer is Annabelle Martin; Eli Carnahan is on the light/sound board; and Dennis Anderson is the backstage crew.
Donna Norman is Stage Manager and Thom Seymour is Technical Director.
“Four Old Broads” runs Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm, and also include a Saturday matinee at 2pm, and Sunday matinee at 3pm. Call the box office at (864) 233-6733 or visit http://www.centrestage.org/. Tickets for Four Old Broads are $30, $25, and $15. Student rush tickets are available for $15 with school ID (based on availability), one ticket per ID.