“I Know I Came in Here for Something”
This review was written by Gail M. Burns - September 2009
As we left the Lighthouse Marina and Restaurant after seeing the Taconic Stage Company’s production of “I Know I Came In Here for Something: The Middle-Aged Musical Revue” my companion said to me: “I haven’t laughed that much in ages. I’m not even sure it’s really good for you to laugh that much.”
While it is possible for us middle-aged folks to develop various aches and pains that kick in only when we laugh, I can’t think of any better medicine for most of life’s ailments than to laugh as loud and as long as you can. There were people in that audience literally weeping with uncontrolled hilarity. No wonder this show has been playing to sold-out crowds all summer long and has been revived for an autumn fling.
I am very glad that Carl Ritchie, Artistic Director of Taconic Stage Company who also serves as playwright, lyricist and director for this production, kept patiently extending an invitation to me to come, see, and review this little gem, because “I Know I Came in Here for Something” is the best fun I’ve had all season.
It helps that I am a Baby Boomer, yes. While members of Gen X or Y or The Millennials. will undoubtedly have fun, you need to be over 40 to really pee your pants over this material. And we folks over 40 are so much better at peeing our pants than those youngsters are anyway!
I called myself middle-aged the other day and someone snarked, “Planning to live to be 104, are you Gail?” Well, I could. My Auntie Ethel turned 104 just last week (Happy birthday, Ethel!!) But in all likelihood I will poop out somewhere between 70-90, which means I passed my midway point a decade or so ago. But the middle is a very broad area, and mine is broader than most. I know I am neither at the beginning or the end of my run – where else could I be but in the middle?
“I Know I Came In Here for Something” is nothing fancy. Four actors, no set, minimal props and costumes, one piano and one piano player (John Moran). Wayne Moore’s music and Ritchie’s lyrics are basic and cheerful. The Lighthouse Marina on Copake Lake provides a genial setting and a hearty and tasty pre-show meal (although vegetarians and vegans should plan to attend just the show). So what makes this bit of fluff so much fun? The same thing that makes mid-life enjoyable – you know who you are and you don’t need to worry about where you’re going because you’re already there. A recent study found that middle-aged men and women, particularly those in long-term relationships, were the most content group of people on the planet. And they found plenty to laugh about.
Ritchie’s script and lyrics pull no punches – after all, by your middle years you ain’t no virgin and whatever vanity and modesty you once possessed have vanished along with childbirth, proctological exams, and the increasing “character” evident in your face and hair (or lack thereof) when you look in the mirror. There are songs about menopause, kidney stones, high school reunions, middle-aged spread, and, of course, erectile dysfunction. There are also a couple of touching ballads celebrating the joys of a long marriage and the heartbreak of caring for an aging parent.
Since this is a revue, a collection of sketches and songs, none of the actors play the same character throughout and none of the characters have names. The cast is identified as Woman One (Diedre Devere Bollinger), Woman Two (Cathy Lee-Visscher), Man One (Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon), and Man Two (Brian Litscher). Bollinger, Lee-Visscher, and Litchser have been performing together all summer, but the September 19 performance I attended was Schane-Lydon’s first appearance in the show, replacing David L. Greene.
There are various curmudgeonly quibbles I could raise – the women are much stronger than the men, the music has a relentlessly cheerful sameness to it, and the lyrics are pedestrian – but none of that really matters because the whole thing works. And the performances by Bollinger and Lee-Visscher more than make up for anything else that is wrong with this show.
In the past I have enjoyed Bollinger’s dramatic performances more than her comedic ones, but I now take back anything I ever wrote about comedy not being her forte. She is the funniest thing on the stage, and her comedy chops are evident from her first significant solo in an unctuous parody of those endless TV ads for prescription meds we never knew we needed called “Try Our Pill.” She goes on to turn menopause into a positively Jekyll and Hyde-type transformation in “The Change” and then takes a one-eighty to play a middle-aged mom in childbirth in “Accidents Can Happen.” At all times she is beautiful and hilarious.
And the same goes for Lee-Visscher, who provides the perfect perky blonde foil to Bollinger’s dark good looks and more cynical character. She puts a positive spin on menopause (yes, there is one) and wryly notes “I’ve Become My Mother.” The two women duet delightfully on “Viva.”
Litscher laments the frustrations of presbyopia (farsightedness) when trying to read a restaurant menu in “Stretch Out Your Hand,” celebrates a “Bargain Basement Mid-life Crisis,” and shares “A Secret Love” with Schane-Lydon, all of which are very funny. He also handles the most serious and moving moment in the show with “Do You Remember Me?” a song sung by an adult son to his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother.
Schane-Lydon opened strong with “One, Two, Three (The Kidney Stone Waltz)” and then warmed up to some wild material in the second act when he soloed on “The Bump” wearing a very spiffy red tux ensemble, served as a genial host for the game show “Who Wants to be Middle-Aged?” and then brought down the house with the penultimate number “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go.” His wide and innocent eyes help make the more outrageous songs, and costumes, extra hilarious.
My only really big complaint is the lack of diversity in the script and in the cast. All the actors are white and all the characters are straight. Surely aging is the common bond that unites us all! Our bodies disintegrate fairly uniformly regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference and the show would have felt more lifelike if that fact had been presented.
You only have one more weekend left to laugh your ass off – so for Lord’s sake make your reservations NOW! …unless Ritchie and company are up for a wintertime run or for taking this show on the road, which wouldn’t be hard at all. I’ll bet there are middle-aged folk throughout this region who would enjoy a hearty guffaw on a cold winter’s night, and a bunch of area restaurants who would be glad to host a hit show to bring in some business. Here’s hoping I have a chance to re-post this review sometime very soon!