The Gingerbread Lady,” a reproduction of producer Neil Simon’s 1970 play of the same title, is not your usual gingerbread story.
Many people may be able to relate to the real life problems that the characters encounter. From loneliness, broken hearts, loss of a job and insecurities, Simon ventures through the down sides of life, which are considered universal experiences for all, as portrayed from the living room of a Manhattan apartment in the 1970s.
“The Ginger Bread Lady” explores the life of Evy, a single, 48-year-old, nymphomaniac, ex-cabaret singer, shortly after she returns home from rehab for alcoholism.
When Evy’s 17-year-old daughter, Polly, comes to live with her, Evy has to try to do the one thing she doesn’t know how to do – be a mother. But it seems she can take a lesson from her daughter.
Evy’s abusive 33-year-old ex-boyfriend and her two best friends-a homosexual and a low-budget actor-and a 40-year-old narcissistic woman with a fear of aging, tell us exactly what drives Evy to alcoholism. But Polly is determined to save her mother from the evils of alcohol.
The metaphor of the gingerbread lady is seen throughout the play as Evy’s friends and family try to “catch” her and help her realize and fix her drinking problem, but she continues to run, runs as fast as she can from help and from the troubles of life, hoping that she can find the answer to her problems in a bottle, when ironically, the bottle is her biggest problem.
With such an abundance of eccentric characters of fascinating backgrounds, one would expect the play to be full of twist and turns, causing eyes to remain glued to the stage. However, the play as a whole wasn’t as exciting as the characters in it.
All of Evy’s friends have amazing stories to tell, but the problem is just that, they only tell the stories, these situations are never acted out, and the play seems to be one long conversation.
The play takes the audience on a trip through the main character’s battle with alcoholism, but it leaves the audience craving more information and with more drama. The majority of the play consists of Evy pouring and drinking alcohol. At first sneaking it, and then having no shame about it, and finally drinking in front of any and everyone. The point that Evy is an alcoholic is made very clear, but an illustration of Evy’s inner turmoil and conflict that led her to drink would be more affective than watching her take numerous sips of various alcoholic beverages.
In the beginning of act three, Evy returns home with a black eye after disappearing the night before. She explains to her daughter that her ex-boyfriend, Lou, hit her. This scene would have been much more interesting and entertaining if the interaction between Evy and Lou were acted out.
Letting the audience hear the conversation that led up to the fight, see the fear in Evy’s eyes and hear the frustration in Lou’s voice, would have allowed for the audience to make a deeper connection with the main character. Instead viewers are left to use their own imaginations to determine how the scene may have looked.
Though the plot could have been more developed, the play offers some universal humor, as well as scattered quick wit and punch lines that require the audience to stay alert to be able to catch. Some of the humor may be offensive to a sensitive audience, but is nonetheless funny.
Linda L. Rand, who plays the main character, Evy, also co-produced the Sierra Madre Playhouse production of the Gingerbread Lady, along with Melanie Ewbank, who has also acted in several Sierra Madre Playhouse productions.
I recommend this play to anyone who has a quirky sense of humor and is in the mood for a few good laughs in place of an enthralling story.
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