Slice of life

The Gingerbread Lady

The Gingerbread Lady, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday; $30. New Helvetia Theatre, 1028 R Street; (916) 469-9850; Through May 26.
Rated 5.0

Neil Simon has never been known to pull punches with his writing. His characters are imbued with a reality and truth that make them not only relatable, but also sympathetic concerning their problems.

New Helvetia Theatre presents The Gingerbread Lady, Simon’s 1970 play about an ex-lounge singer dealing with her recovery from alcoholism, a relationship with her daughter and two enabling friends who have their own worlds pressing down on them. Natasha Burr directs.

It’s been years since Evy Meara (Jamie Jones) has had a singing gig. The bills are piling up, and she’s only just dried out. Her friends Jimmy (Matt K. Miller) and Toby (Shannon Mahoney) try to keep her on her feet, but when their own lives go through hiccups, it will test the friends’ resolve.

Jones hits the audience hard with her portrayal of Evy. The character is given a fierce tongue that only gets her into more trouble and shows Neil Simon to be a genius at dealing with how life can be hilarious and dark simultaneously. Miller plays a fantastic early ’70s queen.

The set is gorgeous and makes a perfect apartment for the time, courtesy of artistic director Connor Mickiewicz and director Burr.

The play’s lukewarm reception in 1970 could be attributed to its examination of normally off-limits topics, but today, the things that show the unseemly, the socially contrary or the awkward usually prove to depict the most authentic slices of reality. So it is with this production.