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  • Ellen C. Chahey, Barnstable Patriot

Wrinkles, the Musical’ on stage at Cape Cod Theatre Company in Harwich

Bright colors, bright songs, bright acting, bright script, bright faith in people and in life, spiced with bright singing and dancing, make for a fabulous premiere at the Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of Harwich Jr. Theatre, in “Wrinkles, The Musical.”

The show, which had its beginnings as a work-in-progress at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre in 2010, is now a full-length hit, with extra chairs needed at the Harwich theater for a Mother’s Day matinee. It uses the old storyline of a play-within-a-play, but the plot crackles with the freshness of real stories the playwrights collected from real Cape Cod women over 60. You can laugh until you cry at one scene and then, suddenly, before the tears of laughter have a chance to dry, there are more tears of a different nature to join them on the play’s way to its hope-filled resolution.

The play, written by Naomi Turner and Wilderness Sarchild, with music by Jason Howland, Sarah Burrill and musical director Malcolm Granger (who plays keyboard in the small band), features a seasoned cast of singer-actors who give each other the same boost that their characters give each other. Directed by the theater’s producing artistic director, Nina Schuessler, the cast includes Joanne Callum Powers, Paula Erickson, Celeste Howe, Sue Lindholm, Karen McPherson, Sherrie Smith Scudder, Deb Stringham, Karen Santos and Dana McCoy, as well as a kind of Greek chorus of “Ancients” who know about the aging of women and tell of it in poetry.

The actors are dressed just right for their characters by Frances Covais Lautenberger, and they strut their stuff on a set designed and lighted by James P. Byrne. It’s a great-looking production.

Although this show is performed on the stage that is the “home of the Harwich Jr. Theatre,” it’s definitely not for children. The characters have some conversation in blunt language about sex, marriages good and bad, and disease and death. A joint gets passed around at a party.

A few moments and performances to highlight here certainly are not exhaustive, but you are sure to be riveted by the love story of Jane and Sally (Powers and Erickson); by Pam (Scudder) singing out her wrath in “Do Not Resuscitate”; by an electrifying ensemble tap number; and by the star turn of Karen McPherson as Auntie Beulah.

The playwrights’ note in the program recounts that the show had its origins in their own different approaches to their 60th birthdays: “Wilderness went on a three-week silent retreat and wrote poetry. Naomi began preparation for the magical day, six months in advance, by getting botox, juvaderm, cosmetic dentistry, and a personal trainer!” Figuring that there was a story in their differences, they wrote, they explored “the journeys of others as they approached their elder years. In workshops, interviews and group discussions, over 100 women ages 60-95 shared their lives with us, speaking intimately about sex, illness, freedom, body image, relationships, even death. From this work we developed a story line, created eight composite characters, and wrote lyrics for the accompanying songs.” They credit these women, as well as Schuessler and Granger, and the cast, as co-collaborators in the final product.

The Cape Cod Theatre Company itself is celebrating its 66th year, renamed in 2015 from Harwich Junior Theatre to reflect its outreach to all ages.


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