Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Broadway Perspectives: A Concert Celebrating Diversity
Susan is a chatterbox who rattles on to anyone within earshot. To celebrate her 60th birthday, she's repeating a trip to Australia she took with three of her close friends 40 years ago. But her three friends have all moved on now, either gotten married, lost touch, or passed away, so she's making the trip by herself.
Over the course of the almost two-hour play (including intermission), Susan prattles on about the details of her three female friends, information about the previous tip, and talks about how she's basically the same person now that she was then, but with 40 years of extra baggage. As she pines over Bill, the bartender at the hotel she's staying at who was also the bartender four decades ago, she realizes that, while her friends have all changed and moved on, she's still the same lonely girl in the corner of the room she was 40 years ago.
Quilter is probably best known for his 2005 play End of the Rainbow, which detailed a period at the end of Judy Garland's life and was the basis for the Oscar-winning film, Judy. That piece showed that he has the ability to write strong characters and engaging dialogue and also to appropriately build situations that are both comical and serious. While Just the Ticket does a good job of combining comedy and drama and giving us a fair number of details around the friends Susan took the previous trip with, it misses somewhat in truly fleshing out the character of Susan. Quilter also tends to repeat things, like continually reminding us how Susan is accident prone, or how she talks to everyone around her, which stretches the running time out unnecessarily while also making the few meaningful moments concerning how life has basically passed Susan by seem to be somewhat less poignant or important. Fortunately, Quilter allows us to see that Susan is self-aware, realizes her shortcomings, and can see how some of them have put her in the situation she's in, which helps to make the character more realistic. He also wrote an upbeat ending that allows us to know that, after all that she's been through, Susan will be just fine.
Paula McKenny, Suze St. John, Cynthia Elek, Mary Timpany, Cindy Miesse, and Susan Webster portray Susan, and all six do a very good job of navigating their way around the range of comical and dramatic material and creating engaging portrayals of this outgoing woman who just also happens to be a bit of a loner. Under Cody Dull's clear direction, they all deliver commanding and confident performances infused with both humor and heart. Dull also manages to stage practically seamless transitions when one actress replaces another while also ensuring that there is consistency in their performances. Dull also provides the colorful set and outlandish costume designs, which help to beautifully depict Susan's wild, carefree nature.
While Just the Ticket may not be a perfect play, Stage Left's production offers the chance to see six talented local actresses. It also does a very good job of getting across the play's message that there's nothing wrong with growing old; the only crime is feeling old.
Stage Left Productions' safety measures include socially distanced seating, masks required by all audience members and theatre staff, and a heightened cleaning process before, during and after each performance.
Just the Ticket runs through April 25, 2021, at Stage Left Productions, 11340 West Bell Road, Suite 105, Surprise AZ. Tickets can be purchased at www.stageleftaz.com or by calling 623 285-6321
Director/Set/Lighting/Sound/Costume Designer: Cody Dull
Cast: (in order of appearance):