|By Shera Cohen|
"Jerry & Ed"
Majestic Theatre, West Springfield, through Nov. 30
Life-long friendship, mutual respect and tomfoolery, and the vicissitudes and nonsense of aging are woven into an original play that entertains while unloosing emotions especially love.
"Jerry & Ed" has come along at the right time, a best buddy play that momentarily blocks out today's downer news. The charm doesn't unfold immediately because Jerry's opening monologue is a collection of cornball one-liners that net painful groaning. But once Jerry (Steve Henderson, who also wrote the play) gets that painful shtick out of his system, the play rocks and rolls.
The plot is simple: Jerry and his life-long best friend Ed (Dick Volker) are widowers residing at the Garden Acres Retirement Community. They have walkers they don't need; with a wink they let the audience in on the scam: "It's an insurance thing." When their tempers flare, the walkers held at shoulder level turn the aging bad boys into antlered game who lock horns, so to speak. If their balance were better, they'd probably paw the ground.
As one memory leads to another, their adventures and misadventures are resurrected. They take us and the girls they're courting, Margaret and Doris, to an amusement park where they hate the Ferris wheel and are not thrilled with the roller coaster. Their romancing is interrupted by World War II. During one firefight, pinned down by ordnance, Ed is injured in the leg. Even in the midst of battleground horror, their love and exasperation with one another spawns humor. When the war ends and their troop ship arrives in New York, they phone Margaret and Doris. They are battle-tested veterans, giddy with romantic longings. When their barely articulate proposals are accepted, they are euphoric.
Henderson's Jerry and Volker's Ed are fully developed characters. Volker's restrained remembrance of Doris' final illness grabs the heart. Jack Neary's direction is sensitive to Henderson's deceptively simple script that teems with the high drama of ordinary human beings' basic emotions. Throughout "Jerry & Ed" a sweetness permeates. Regardless of how old and wise they get, their boyish innocence endures.