In “Senior Moments,” a semi-autobiographical play written and directed by Aviva Ravel that premiers this weekend at Stage 62 in Carnegie, we get a glimpse into one Jewish woman’s comedic pursuit of love in a gated senior community in Florida.
Ravel, who splits her time between her native Montreal, Florida and Pittsburgh, based “Senior Moments” on her own dating experiences following the death of her first husband in 1998, after 50 years of marriage.
For the first two years of widowhood, Ravel says she “didn’t even think of dating. But then people began to fix me up. I was lonely.”
It was those “many, many” fix-ups that became the fodder for all the male characters in “Senior Moments.”
Although the characters Ravel created as suitors for the play’s protagonist, newly widowed Rachel, were based on men Ravel had dated herself, she says some of those characters’ quirks are exaggerated for the stage.
So, nu, who are these men? Anyone we might know?
“Well, one of the dates I had, all he could talk about was health and all the pills you should take,” Ravel said. “So, I created the character of Louie.”
“Then there was the one who knew everything. There was nothing he didn’t know. Anything that came up: he was there, he knew, he met. So, I created Jon,” she said.
“Then there was the one who thought the world was coming to an end,” Ravel said. “To him, the world is bad. He thought you couldn’t trust anyone. So, I created a doom and gloom guy. He’s very funny, but there is also such a sad side to him. He just wants to go home with Rachel, and have someone to be with.”
Ravel has written more than 25 mostly Jewish plays that have been performed across both the United States and Canada. She is also the founder and director of the popular Performance Playreading Ensemble of the Cote St. Luc Library that has presented more than 150 plays, both classical and modern, and has directed staged readings of modern Hebrew plays for the Jewish Public Library of Montreal.
Ravel says she is excited to be working with accomplished actors in “Senior Moments,” including Arlene Merryman as Rachel, and Sylvia Hanna, who portrays Rachel’s best friend, a “busybody” character based on Ravel’s own best friend, who passed away in 2005.
Rounding out the cast is veteran Pittsburgh performer Howard Elson, who plays all the suitors.
“He’s incredible,” Ravel said of Elson. “He plays men from age 26 to 97.”
“The guy that’s 26 has a grandmother complex,” Ravel explained.
Elson says he finds it “challenging” playing so many characters in a single show, but is having fun exploring the variety of personalities.
“I have to change characters on the fly,” he said. “And I don’t want them to be one-note personalities. I want these people to be believable, not cartoons, as does Aviva.
“I don’t want people not to like these characters. I want people to have some empathy for them. These are all people looking to share their lives with someone. And Aviva has written it that way.”
Like her alter ego Rachel, Ravel found that the wisdom gleaned from experience informed the criteria she would require a prospective mate to meet the second time around.
“I had 10 requirements,” she said, including financial independence, good health, generosity, and “adoring me.”
In “Senior Moments,” Rachel’s best friend warns, “You’re going to have to settle for less than perfect,” as Rachel begins dating, reminding her that her first husband “wasn’t perfect.”
Ravel says that Rachel has no intention of “settling,” and responds: “When I got married before, I was too young to know better.”
Although refusing to give away the ending of Rachel’s tale, Ravel did reveal the result of her own dating escapades.
“In 2001, I met Al Fleitman,” she said. “We were introduced by friends. It was love at first sight.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)