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CTL's 'Moving Mountains' stays young at heart

Sex and the Senior Set

April 22, 2012
By C.A. KELLER - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

CTL's upcoming production of Lawrence Roman's "Moving Mountains" has little to do with actual mountains and all to do with the mountains one carries inside the self. But lest you think this is a somber, existential tale, there is this one little tidbit: The play, about the senior set, uses a sauna for a hiding place and those seniors? Well, they're having a lot of sex.

The scandal - or, more appropriately, the lack thereof - takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. April 27 and 28 and May 3 through 5, and at 2 p.m. May 6.

Directed by Denise Connor, "Moving Mountains" is the story of Charlie (Bob Taylor), a young-at-heart senior in Southern California who decides to live life to the fullest - with as many ladies as possible. But despite his Casanova imitation, Charlie chooses to pursue women his own age, who have a sense of life and loss. Those women, including Harriet (Miki Rebeck) and Gwen (Andree Phillips), also are willing participants, looking for connection in their golden years.

Article Photos

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette

But the real ruckus begins when Charlie meets Polly (Sandie Fairman), a fellow retiree who's always played by the rules. Polly makes Charlie reconsider his would-be Lothario ways, while learning to loosen up in the process.

But readers with eyebrows raised should know that despite the sleeping around, "Moving Mountains" is far from crass. Instead, as an early rehearsal gave evidence, the production looks to be thoughtful, truthful and very, very funny.

"I think it really celebrates people in that time of their life," Fairman said. "The discoveries that they have and sometimes the newfound freedoms. Basically, it's about love and sex for people in their 60s, which people don't talk about a lot. But it's there. The character of Polly is a very interesting character. She's very timid in the beginning, but kind of spreads her wings a bit and surprises herself.

"The title is 'Moving Mountains,' and it's really about moving your mountains," Fairman added. "There are things that you might have been afraid to try before, and you find out you're actually more capable than you might have given yourself credit for."

A key to the "Moving Mountains" plot, and the antics it contains, is in the hearts of its characters.

"People will say that Charlie is this Lothario or whatever you want to call it," Taylor said of his character. "But the women all know what Charlie is. It's not like he's hiding anything. And the fact that they're satisfied with it, and the fact that at an age themselves (where) they still desire attention, and to be touched. It's not a seedy thing. And I think that the play is written in such a way that it doesn't come across that way. It's not the case at all."

"There's a lot of comedy in this, but there's a lot of tenderness in it," Taylor added, highlighting Charlie and Polly's relationship as an example of "Moving Mountain's" thematic depth, and of how love can change when people get older. "It's still love, but it's just a different kind of love. It's more of a mutual respect for each other and more of a companionship."

"Moving Mountains" is ultimately about self-discovery, a journey that can begin at any age and never really ends. Despite the shenanigans, the story "Moving Mountains" tells is less about aging bodies and more about remaining young at heart.

"Aside from the physical comedy of people ducking into the sauna to hide from each other, this play offers a poignant message about aging," Connor said. "Charlie asks, 'Who says the grape is better than the raisin?' and he's got a point. Aging doesn't have to mean getting old. I want audiences to walk away from the show, reconsidering the assumptions they may make about those in their lives who may be older but no less vibrant and full of feeling."

Roman's play addresses those assumptions in Charlie's adult daughter, Elaine (Melissa Hersh), who's horrified by her father's antics. The play also stars CTL regulars Conrad Shull as Polly's son, Robert, and Beau Schemery as her nephew, Marc.

Connor said that the cross-generational aspect of "Moving Mountains" broadens its appeal.

"This play speaks to those who have aging parents, and to those who have adult children," Connor said. "I believe CTL strives for a variety of productions each season and Moving Mountains helps reach a diverse audience."

"Moving Mountains" also is an opportunity for diverse local theater veterans to bring together their own separate theatrical histories to tell a tale of life experience. Though the cast and their director have contributed to area theater in general and CTL in particular, their paths have rarely crossed.

An English teacher at Montoursville Area High School, Connor has directed plays on her home turf since 2008, including this year's production of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Ernest." She's performed at CTL as the fairy godmother in "Cinderella," and as the detective in "Clue: The Musical."

Taylor runs his own theater company, Customed Tailored Productions, which mounts murder mysteries in Pennsdale and last year staged a production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

And Fairman's experience has typically been dramatic or directorial. Her first performance with CTL was in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" and she's also played Blanche in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."

While the cast for the most part is younger than their fictional counterparts, their collective experience and passion for the theatre imbues "Moving Mountains" with the sense of life - and life experience - it exhibited during early rehearsals.

Fairman, Conner and Taylor also all separately summed up a very specific hope for the play and the effect they'd love to see it have on its audience. When the lights dim at the the play's close, the cast wants one message to resonate.

"Just because we age, it doesn't mean we're old," Taylor said. "And it doesn't mean that life is over. And it doesn't mean that we still don't have or can't have feelings for another person, or want to be intimate with someone. It's not that you hit a certain age (and) a switch goes off and that's it. I think if that happens it's because a person lets it happen. It doesn't have to happen at all. There's nothing that says that 'at this particular time of life, you stop wanting to have sex.' Or you want to sit in front of the TV and drink beer and get a beer gut or whatever. It doesn't have to be that way.

"I have a friend whose still doing shows and is 90 - and he's damn good," Taylor said. "He's really good, still really, really good at what he does. And he's a perfect example. I always say that when I reach your age, if I reach your age, I hope I'm even walking. Like I said, it's all in the individual. It's all based in the individual."

For Fairman's part, the actress has little doubt of the play's appeal. "I know people are going to love it," she said. "People of all ages are going to love it."

For ticket information or reservations, call the CTL Box Office from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at 327-1777.



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