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Theater Reviews : Few 'Social Security' Benefits : If Andrew Bergman's dated comedy shouldn't be retired, at least the overextended cast at Westminster should be.

May 24, 1995|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WESTMINSTER — Andrew Bergman's "Social Security" is one of those plays that local theater troupes keep doing year after year. One wonders why. Its gags, of which there are many, are of another era and aren't that funny to begin with. Bergman's targets--the art world, senior citizens, pretentiousness--have been hit by others' better-aimed arrows.

Lenore Stjerne's direction at Westminster Community Theatre doesn't do much to help the script. The action concerns the Kahns, an upscale, art-dealing Manhattan couple, whose dim-bulb suburban relatives--Barbara Kahn's sister and brother-in-law--deposit the women's 70-year-old mother, Sophie, very nasty and presumably failing, in their laps. She is introduced to an even older gentleman, an internationally known artist, who sweeps her off her feet into a second youth and solves everyone's problems.

Stjerne keeps the action fast, but speed doesn't compensate for overacting, surface characterizations and a lack of concern for where to find what humor there is in the play.

Marc and Laurie LeBlanc play David and Barbara Kahn, the sophisticated East Side art dealers, but they seem as dimly suburban as Rick Paap and Barbara Kerek Anzlovar do as mama Sophie's daughter and husband from Mineola. All four spend a lot of time reacting broadly during someone else's lines, and when they do speak, the depth of their characterizations settles somewhere around "Three's Company."

*

Char Salkin fares better as Sophie. Although her transformation is too swift and too grand from the angry, feisty old woman into what appears to be the belle dame of New York society, she at least reads her lines with sincerity.

Wil Thompson is effective as her withered suitor, Maurice, but it seems odd that in this production his age is given as 84, when he's usually referred to as a ripe and active 100. Even the subtlety of this bit of humor--that even a century can't dull one's lusts--is lost here.

Stjerne's set design of a chic and elegant East Side flat looks more like suburbia, and the paintings the Kahns are so proud of are way too small for the apartment and the images described by their conversation. And Maurice's portrait of Sophie proves an old dictum: When an artist in a play is supposed to be brilliant, you had better not show his work unless it is.

* "Social Security," Westminster Community Theatre, 7272 Maple St., Westminster. Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. Ends June 3. $10. (714) 527-8463. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Marc LeBlanc: David Kahn

Laurie LeBlanc: Barbara Kahn

Barbara Kerek Anzlovar: Trudy Heyman

Rick Paap: Martin Heyman

Char Salkin: Sophie Greengrass

Wil Thompson: Maurice Koenig

A Westminster Community Theatre production of Andrew Bergman's situation comedy. Produced by Jennifer Boudreau. Directed by Lenore Stjerne. Scenic design: Lenore Stjerne. Costume/prop design: Sandi Newcomb. Technical design: Jeff Crumley. Stage manager: Ed Steneck.

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