‘”Prepping for Widowhood” is a frequently laugh-out-loud look at what sustains us when life happens—in this case, widowhood. It’s a story of four old friends known as “The Seasons” (each was born in a different season) who met in college and forged a life-long bond. It’s a testament to friendship.
…it is a gentle, warm-hearted work that doesn’t see older women as something to overlook, but as vital and interesting.
Five talented actors (not picture above is Mariel Penberthy as Anne, Virginia’s daughter) draw us into this story of surviving major life changes and embracing life. The Four Seasons are in their 70s. One is a relatively recent widow (five years, but she’s a very cautious, serious woman); one is channeling her inner Blanche Dubois (and excelling at it);, one has a husband who falls ill and needs care; and finally one who is still pursuing her musical career. Sounds like they’ve got their lives pretty much together, doesn’t it?
But Virginia is in a push-pull relationship with life. She’s lonely, but doesn’t want to get involved with anyone at this time in life because, what’s the point? It’s not that she won’t try new things, but she’ll try them once and then swear off them (of course, this is a woman who thinks that anyone who goes to parish bingo regularly has a gambling problem). She tried a dating app and met a date for lunch but he was short and used a coupon to pay for lunch. Virginia decided that she wasn’t going to try that again.
Yet, Virginia is also afraid of sinking into a complete rut, except for her Manhattan-fueled card games with her friends and trips to the grocery store. She thinks about signing up for a senior singles cruise to Alaska only to meet some unexpected blowback from her daughter, Anne. It turns out Ann is afraid of her mother to do things alone because she’s afraid of losing her and it’s prepared for that. One of the nice subtleties of the script is that when Virginia does decide to take a chance (not the cruise), there’s a sense that she’s also showing Anne how to face changes. Virginia also discovers that no one can fully prepare for every eventuality in the future, and that focusing on prepping for every possible negative contingency means you miss a lot of possibilities.
The four women do a wonderful job with their characters. Jane Petkofsky is Virginia and captures the mother hen, always-be-prepared aspect of her character, along with hints of the more daring girl she used to be. Carol Randolph as Betty is down-to-earth, supportive, and comfortable with herself. Dolly Turner plays Margaret, the jazz musician with a slightly other-worldly air. She thinks about things thoroughly before giving an opinion. As Thelma, Liz Weber has the most colorful character who relishes the spotlight.
The final character is Joe, nicely played by Don Myers. He’s retired (from several careers) and is filling in for his son who manages several buildings in the neighborhood when he meets Virginia and the other ladies. His character has a warmth without being pushy and he’s respectful. In one scene when Virginia has sprained her ankle, he goes to her refrigerator to get some frozen vegetables, but takes the time to ask what she kind she would prefer. It’s a small, insightful moment.
The costumes by Elizabeth Kemmerer also give subtle clues to their wearer’s character. Margaret’s clothes have a quiet sheen and gravitas to them. Betty’s garb is soft and comfortable. Virginia’s are neat, polished and modest. Thelma sports a more trendy look. Anne looks like a young mother with not enough time. Joe’s pieces are thoughtful and classic. The set is designed by Ali Mark and fits the parameters of a smallish apartment in a big city. Catherine Aselford directs with a light touch, and the actors respond well, especially when landing a joke.
Rob Dames is the playwright, and he has done a credible job of creating a brief snippet of life about four older women. I actually would have liked a little more character development, especially for Margaret and Anne, but overall, it is a gentle, warm-hearted work that doesn’t see older women as something to overlook, but as vital and interesting.That’s a very nice message.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 40 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Show Advisory: Alcohol, some adult language.
“Prepping for Widowhood” runs through October 17, 2021 presented by Best Medicine Rep at their new home on the ground floor of Lake Forest Mall, 701 Russell Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD. This is also the first show of their fifth season. For more information and Covid safety protocols, please click here.