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Review: The Golden Girls Return!

Tyler Gillespie on the Mid-City Theatre production



Before the women of Sex and the City and Girls ruled the airwaves, there were The Golden Girls. The sitcom about four elderly friends living in Florida delivered laughs and some serious moments. The Golden Girls Return!, which recently ran at Mid-City Theatre, was a lighthearted and hilarious tribute to the show.

  The production featured three episodes strung together with some of the cast's own twists on the material — including more gratuitous innuendo and outrageous outfits. The cast hit the mark, even when members occasionally broke character by laughing with the audience,

  The TV show revolved around three friends — Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Rose (Betty White) — who live together, along with Dorothy's mother Sophia (Estelle Getty). At Mid-City, Becky Allen played Dorothy, the ringleader who keeps them all together. Allen delivered a pitch-perfect performance and gave the production a lot of heart.

  I couldn't wait to see how Jeffery Roberson (aka Varla Jean Merman) would play Blanche, known for delivering many of the show's tongue-in-cheek lines in her Southern manner. As a bawdier version of Blanche, Roberson wore a short dress and made every moment count. His delivery was stellar, and his walk alone — a head-bobbing and hip-swagging strut — made Blanche a showstopper.

  The production's best segment revolved around Blanche's brother coming out of the closet, which allowed all the characters to have fun moments. St. Olaf, Minnesota-born Rose (Brooklyn Shaffer) unwittingly acted as the brother's "beard" for a bit, and in this role, Shaffer offered great characterization. Rose is a fun character given to rambling memories of her hometown, and Shaffer perfected her hazy gaze into the distance.

  The pacing was quick, and the jokes rapid-fire, but the cast knew when to let them sit. In one moment, Sophia (Ricky Graham) did not think the audience laughed enough at one of her jokes, so she went on to explain why it was funny. Graham is a master of deadpan delivery and has brilliant comedic timing, and he offered a great off-the-cuff moment in Sophia's joke explanation that fostered the "live taping" feel of the show.

  Like a TV show, there were commercial breaks, but this production featured outrageous clips, including Japanese ads for a breast enhancing machine and a "self-swipe" toilet paper device.

  From the production's first note of the Golden Girls theme song "Thank You for Being a Friend" to the foursome's finale singing a tribute to Miami, the show was a delight.

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