Social Security – Alhambra Dining & Theatre review

The Alhambra opened Andrew Bergman’s comedy “Social Security” for a limited run through June 8, 2014. It is the hottest ticket in town, starring BARBARA EDEN from the long-running television series “I Dream of Jeannie.”

This play was on Broadway beginning in 1986, and featured star power there also. With Mike Nichols as Director and Marlo Thomas and Olympia Dukakis in the leading roles, it ran for 388 performances.

The plot concerns a feisty, widowed senior citizen Sophie (BARBARA EDEN) who disrupts the lives of her daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and David Kahn, by moving into their up-scale New York apartment. Sophie had been living in Long Island with Barbara’s sister, Trudy and her husband Martin. But they are facing a family crisis, having discovered their eighteen year old daughter is no longer attending her college classes: instead, she is living with two men in Buffalo. They unexpectedly drop in at the Kahns, tell them they must now care for Sophie, and shuffle off to Buffalo to save their daughter. Of interest, the play has nothing to do with social security other than a single reference to the fact that Sophie is a recipient.

David and Barbara are art gallery owners who spend much of their time entertaining wealthy clients and famous artists. Sophie, who uses no makeup, and has bird’s nest gray hair, dowdy clothing and a walker, puts a damper on their social life.

A visit by the elderly Maurice Koenig, a world famous painter, changes things, as love blooms and so does Sophie. There are a lot of one-line jokes and the theme is adult, but the language is not offensive.

In addition to the charming Ms. Eden, Director/Producer TOD BOOTH has assembled a outstanding cast who make even the smallest roles shine.

PATTI EYLER as Barbara is chic and glamorous. If the name sounds familiar, it should, as Ms. Eyler has been a consistently fine actress at the Alhambra in many roles, and has as well appeared in leading roles throughout the county. A couple of seasons ago, she stepped into the leading role of Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly!” with one day’s notice to fill in for an ailing actress, and performed brilliantly. You are gonna love her in this show.

As David Kahn, MICHAEL STRAUSS again returns to the Alhambra, having previously appeared in leading roles in “The Odd Couple,” “The Foreigner,” and “Remember Me?” Mr. Strauss and Ms. Eyler are very funny and very believable as a couple.

As Trudy, the manically protective mother, MELANIE SOUZA, who hails from the Sarasota, Florida area, is a fine addition to this acting ensemble. MICHAEL EDWARD HODGE plays Martin, the somewhat nerdy husband, for a lot of laughs. Mr. Hodge made his debut at the Alhambra as Boolie in the highly acclaimed production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

MICHAEL EDWARDS as Maurice rounds out this polished and professional cast. There is an old theatre adage, ” There are no small roles, only small actors.” Edwards proves this and is marvelous as the courtly, urbane artist who falls in love just before his one-hundredth birthday. This is Michael’s first Alhambra show but the Dual Critics are very familiar with his work in the Orlando area where he is still one of the most popular actors to ever appear on their many stages.

The reason the Alhambra’s phones are ringing off the hooks these days is because of Barbara Eden, who has been in show business for some fifty years with many, many accomplishments in theatre, movies, and television. ” I Dream of Jeannie” has been off the air since 1970, but still shows up on television, bringing whole new generations of fans. Advisory: To prepare for your Alhambra visit, you may want to check out a DVD from the Jacksonville Public Library or view episodes posted on You Tube.

What can we say about the performance of Ms. Eden? Hers was a performance of enormous charm and warmth. Her transformation from a frumpy, defeated old woman to a stylish and elegant lady was stunning! Ms. Eden never missed a shading point; she always had a wonderful power in each scene. We are pleased to report that Barbara Eden is still in possession of that kittenishness which she so splendidly displayed on “I Dream of Jeannie.” Yes, she is an actress with the magnetism to leave audiences buzzing with joy.

This show also has a striking New York set that consists of an expansive minimalist interior, filled with tubular steel and white furniture, a bar with architectural features, and paintings on the walls.

Executive Chef DeJuan Roy’s menu offers four excellent selections, any one of which will get you in the right mood for an evening of laughs.

The Alhambra Theatre and Dining is located at 12000 Beach Blvd in Jacksonville, Florida. Call (904) 641-1212 for information and reservations. 


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.