By Kay Kipling
After being closed for a time due to financial and landlord issues, the Golden Apple Theatre is open once more, with a new name—the Golden Apple Celebrity Theatre—and some new partners for longtime owner Bob Turoff in the Nederlander/Browne Production company under the direction of Stanley Browne.
It’s a new direction of sorts for the Apple, which has had the distinction of being the longest-running dinner theater in the country (perhaps the world, who knows?). Future shows promise “New York entertainment,” a cabaret series and surprise Broadway guests, all of which sounds intriguing.
But the show on view here right now is a comedy called Viagara Falls, one that seems a labor of love for co-star and co-writer Lou Cutell (who has thousands of credits behind him but is best known to some for his role as “The Assman” on Seinfeld). It’s a piece that must seem aimed at the right demographic here in Sarasota, with its premise of two old geezers, Charlie (Cutell) and Moe (Robert Pine), who spend a lot of time sitting around bemoaning their age-related ailments, including a lack of any sex. On his 80th birthday, Charlie is determined to change that, by hiring a hooker (Teresa Ganzel, and yes, she does turn out to have a heart of gold) and taking those little blue pills that help stimulate action below the waist.
As the opening notes of Frank Sinatra’s High Hopes demonstrate (Charlie is a Sinatra nut), such plans can be doomed to failure, and in this case Moe’s reluctance is a major obstacle to overcome. But things start looking up (you should pardon the pun; there are so many euphemisms for erections in this show you might as well throw in a few yourself) when Ganzel arrives on the scene; she’s willing to get into the spirit of the thing with these oldsters who haven’t had sex since their wives died, and maybe for a while before that.
Ganzel, whom you should recall from her frequent appearances on the Johnny Carson Show, still looks and sounds much as she did then; she’s a testament to the benefits of working out and taking good care of yourself. And she’s generously willing to put herself in any number of embarrassing positions for laughs, as she tries to get Charlie and Moe into the bedroom and earn her $100 an hour.
Cutell and Pine are hard-working, too, with a pleasant rapport. But nothing can disguise the weakness of the script, which may stir an occasional mild chuckle but never breaks out into any belly laughs of the kind you hope for with an idea like this one. There’s a lot of repetitive talk in the first half of the show (which runs with no intermission), and some predictable outcomes in the second (although there is one twist you may or may not see coming).
The theater itself looks somewhat refurbished since its closing, and the show’s set (by Sydney Litwack) is a more substantial one than I’ve seen lately here, although not lavish, since that wouldn’t befit Charlie’s retirement apartment on Long Island. It’s nice to see professional actors with the background of this trio on the Apple stage once more; one just wishes the material they were working with was more entertaining.
Viagara Falls continues for an open-ended run; for tickets call 366-5604 or go to thegoldenapple.com.