For seven years the ART has been entertaining seniors for free. As a staged reading theatrical group, about 20 actors focus more on acting than on memorizing lines.
“As actors it’s much more fun that way,” member Sandra Orloff said.
And it seems to be paying off.
“I’m surprised at the quality of the acting,” senior Gwendolyn Wolf said, who attends the plays with her daughter, Annie Nolan.
The ART caters specifically to seniors, although all are welcome. The group performs on Tuesday and Friday afternoons so the vast majority of its audience are retired seniors.
“We give retired people the chance to view good plays by good actors,” ART artistic director Len Overholser said. “That hole in their afternoon is filled by our group.”
And ART also often times provides a bit of nostalgia for its audience. Ron Smith, member and the voice of the Great Reno Balloon Race, said that many of the group’s plays have not been produced in many years. Overholser decides what plays the group will perform but all members give their recommendations.
“About 90 percent of what we do is comedy,” Orloff said. “Laughter is healing. When they (the seniors) sit down they forget any pain they might have.”
If anybody was in pain Friday it may have been because they were laughing too hard. Six members of ART took the stage Friday at Sparks Library and performed a two act rendition of “The Sunshine Boys.” The Neil Simon comedy reunites a vaudeville duo for a TV special after 11 years of not speaking to each other. It doesn't take long for the audience to find out why - the two fight like cats and dogs.
It's almost uncanny how George Randolph, playing the impossible Willie Clark, vocally resembled actor Walter Matthau who played the part in the 1975 movie rendition. Overholser played the role of Clark's almost equally cantankerous partner of 43 years, Al Lewis.
“As an actor no one could touch him, as a person no one wants to touch him,” Clark said of Lewis.
After some pushing from his nephew Ben Silverman, played by Ron Smith, Clark agreed to perform the duo’s famous doctor skit on the CBS show. But when Lewis and Clark meet to rehearse they don’t even get past the first line before they start bickering over whether Clark should say “Enter” or “Come in” after Lewis knocks on the door.
Once the CBS workers, played by Bob Smith and Bob Gardner, got the two to continue the skit rehearsal, the laughs really came out. As the doctor, Clark was joined on stage by his naughty, gum-smacking nurse Miss McIntosh played wonderfully by Orloff. After bending over his desk in her low cut blouse, Clark asks her to read nearly everything in her planner to keep her in that position.
Finally, Miss McIntosh sees the patient, played by Lewis, into the office. Upon her exit, Lewis tells Clark that he has a date with Miss McIntosh, much to Clark’s dismay.
“She’s a nice girl,” Clark said. “She’s Virginian, that’s where she’s from.”
“Well, she’s not going back, I’ll tell you that,” Lewis retorted.
Together, Randolph and Overholser owned the stage, much like their counterparts Lewis and Clark likely would. With a set of only a table, phone and a few chairs, much is left up to the audience’s imagination. But with the superb acting done on the part of the ART members, it comes easy.
The Ageless Repertory Theatre will be performing “The Sunshine Boys” today at 1 p.m. at the Laxalt Auditorium in downtown Reno. ART is a non-profit group that runs solely on donations.