The Queen of Bingo
Make what you will of the evidence.
At the Studio Theatre, Sacramento’s long-running hymn to middle-aged, suburban, soccer-mom angst, Six Women With Brain Death, is into a mind-boggling sixth year.
Over at City Theatre on the Sacramento City College campus, Aviva Jane Carlin (whose marvelous show Jodie’s Body brilliantly upended the theater world’s tendency to “disappear” white actresses of a certain age and build) is holding forth on Thursday, October 24, with another solo show, The Mother Teresa Monologues.
And, at the Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre, there’s The Queen of Bingo—a loopy and quite lovable little show about two 50-something women with sheets, daubers and good-luck charms, seated in a Catholic church hall and playing … well, you know.
The big appeal of The Queen of Bingo stems from the performances of community actresses Susan Madden, as the fat sister, Babe; and Trish DeBaun, as the more slender sister, Sis. These two women set up an entirely diverting, nutty, small-world give and take that’s somehow universal, with conversation that ranges from bingeing on marshmallow fluff to a possible date (“and more!” with sexual innuendo) with an athletic coach of equivalent age.
Madden, who is priceless in bad hair and tiger stripes, previously was an opportunistic Florida man-hunter in the Thistle Dew’s Pensacola. She also was the older half of the same theatre’s two-woman show Grace and Glorie. In this show, Madden gives an incredibly energetic performance while wearing a crazy, big dress. She wiggles, crawls on the floor, stands on a table, bursts into wails of anguish etc. Subtle? Nah. But does she make you smile? Yeah. And the good feeling is contagious.
DeBaun is the straight one, in comparative terms. But she’s pretty funny as well, slipping on her bifocals to gaze across the room at female rivals from decades past and dissing them in a soft voice while passing smiles when the rivals’ attention drifts her way.
Also in the cast are John N. Montagna as the bingo caller—he announces the numbers with a nice mix of mellow, faded humor and an aging voice, but with an engaging twinkle in his eye; and Chris Lamb as Father Muldoon, a broad-canvas satire of a dimwitted Irish priest. There is a cute opportunity for audience participation just before intermission; cue your ear to hear the numbers.
Information on the Web suggests that this play originally was written with two women in Battle Creek, Mich., in mind. This production, directed by Jill McMahon, moves the location to Sacramento, with plenty of references to local streets and landmarks.
So how come I think The Queen of Bingo is funny, when I felt that Six Women With Brain Death was so-so? To quote the Who’s Pete Townshend, “I can’t explain.” Humor is subjective; it’s a question encompassing both broadness and spontaneity. In any case, The Queen of Bingo is a hoot. Enjoy it while it’s here.