Tina Jo Wallace & Rita Thomas in Social Security.
Photo-Derby Dinner


Social Security

By Andrew Bergman
Directed by Bekki Jo Schneider

Review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

Can you believe that Derby Dinner Playhouse is beginning their 41st season? Time flies when you are having fun with dinner and a show. Such is the case with the Derby’s opening presentation, Social Security.

The enjoyment begins as successful art dealers David and Barbara Kahn (David Myers & Tina Jo Wallace) move about their tony, contemporary Manhattan apartment discussing the phone call that Barbara just received; her sister and brother in law are coming in from the Island to have a discussion. The doorbell rings and in walks Trudy and Martin Heyman (Janet Essenpreiss & Cary Wiger). Trudy is a goody-goody housewife/caretaker and Martin an uptight CPA. The discussion is about the Heyman’s Co-Ed daughter Sarah (unseen), who seems to be expressing herself in alarming ways, which then prompts Trudy and Martin to head to Buffalo and rescue their daughter. Now, what is to be done with the sisters’ aging mother Sophie Greengrass while the Heyman’s are gone? Ding Dong; guess who is coming to stay with the Kahns. In true family fashion, Sophie is a handful for Barbara. But when David’s biggest client, Maurice Koenig comes to dinner, sparks fly and magic is made.

What a delightful comedy romp.

Rita Thomas is spot on as a stereotypical, aging Jewish mother, Sophie. She is spry, clever and not afraid to show off a bit. Cary Wiger is delightful as a mensch. As Barbara, Tina Jo Wallace finds a wonderful balance of being a dutiful daughter, adoring wife and concerned sister, all while looking like and acting as the perfect Uptown Girl. Even though J. R. Stuart’s stage time as Koenig is brief, it is effective and offers some funny moments.

The actors that I believe really stuck out in Social Security were David Myers as David and Janet Essenpreis as Trudy. Mr. Myers was able to be a concerned husband and son in law and offering the calm in the chaos, but also deliver some of the funniest and sage-like lines of the show. Ms. Essenpreis nailed the role of Trudy. Her heavy Long Island Jewish accent was spot on, as was her presentation. And boy, can she play up being a long-suffering and saintly mother and caregiver.

These characters are clearly caricatures, some more over the top than others, but still caricatures. There are no deep conversations about the struggle of children dealing with their aging parents, or how our aging population copes with their lives and loves, or even how siblings get along in Social Security. Instead what you will find is a family that discovers a bit more about themselves through second chances.

Lee Buckholz nailed what I always thought a 1980’s Manhattan apartment would be, complete with the contemporary artwork. Sharon Murray Harrah’s costumes were also perfect representations of the time. I especially adored Ms. Wallace’s wardrobe. From the stage, lights and music, it all fit well.

Bravo Tutti!

Social Security

May 12 – June 21, 2015

Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
(812) 288-8281


[box_light]Annette SkaggsAnnette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]