Pigs Do Fly's 'Fifty Plus: A New Attitude' at Empire Stage brings a new batch of short plays

Janet Weakley turns an interview into comic agony for Troy Stanley in ‘Fifty Plus’ at Empire Stage. Marj O’Neill-Butler

The very name of Pigs Do Fly Productions implies optimism and determination. A soaring pig is an impossibility? Producer-artistic director Ellen Wacher begs to differ.

Founded on the premise that actors over 50 have plenty to contribute to the world of theater, the company has just opened its second batch of short plays at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, after a solidly successful inaugural flight.

Presented under the umbrella title Fifty Plus: A New Attitude!, the production features six actors in a half dozen plays. Most of the pieces are designed to be funny, some a little suggestive, others a bit edgy. The selections are plays, not sketch comedy, but some of the playwrights didn’t get the memo. More than one script ends with a surprise revelation or twist followed by a blackout. All that’s missing is a drummer delivering a rim shot.

The evening begins with Donald Steele’s Memoir, in which a former U.S. senator named Wayne (Todd Caster) is struggling to start his memoirs. His wife Beverly (Elissa Solomon) begins reminiscing, trying to convince him that his life was hardly as boring as he thinks, when the conversation veers into the volatile territory of sexual secrets. Caster and Solomon are good actors, but they struggle as they try to sell Steele’s implausible conversation.

Connie Schindewolf’s Remote Control is a weird little comedy that resonates because don’t we all really loathe cable TV companies and their sneaky tricks? Janet Weakley plays Jean, a none-too-bright gal who needs to summon her hubby Roy (Kerry Sensenbach) whenever she tries to use her TV remote. Then she does that thing that terrifies older folks, pressing a button without having any idea what it does, and a very expensive in-home tech guy named Chuck (Caster) materializes. Roy’s annoyed, but Jean starts thinking that 24/7 service might not be such a bad idea.

Mary Beth Smith’s Buddhists in the Basement spoofs older folks who bounce from one new “passion” to the next. Sadie (Adela Del Rio) returns from a week-long Buddhist retreat, much to the delight of her husband Joe (Troy Stanley), a big guy who’s fond of dropping f-bombs. He ups the pace when Sadie reveals that she’s come home with William (Caster) and Elizabeth (Solomon), a homeless Buddhist couple she intends to install in their basement. After more dickering, a twist comes, but this one is minor and predictable.

Rainbow Sprinkles by Stacey Lane seems simple enough, as a Type A businesswoman is trying to hire a clown to perform at her grandson’s 10th birthday party. But the playwright sends the piece into absurdist territory by making Miranda (Weakley) a control freak nut job whose notion of political correctness is ridiculous. As is the play. Poor Stanley, outfitted in full clown regalia as Rainbow Sprinkles, seems to deflate before our very eyes.

Christopher Lockheardt’s Your Kiss Is on My List is another oddity, a play about a woman (Del Rio) who seductively grants a stranger (Sensenbach) at a bus stop permission to kiss her. Turns out that’s her thing, kissing strangers and then ranking each kiss on a list. The guy is flummoxed but eventually complies, leaving him flustered and blustering.

Mrs. Greenblatt’s Place in the Universe by Sharon Goldner features a senior citizen mom (Weakley) and her driven daughter Marcia (Solomon) meeting for lunch on their mutual birthday. The tightly wound Marcia can’t wait to get back to work, and she likes nothing, particularly the choice of restaurant and her mom’s new penchant for blurting out the word “vagina” at top volume. The piece devolves into a mother-daughter button-pushing session, with (you guessed it) yet another twist.

Directors Marj O-Neill-Butler and Beverly Blanchette keep the actors’ energy level high and each piece lively in its delivery. But given the plays’ less-than-artful writing and sketchy style, this time the pig fails to take off.

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