Review: ‘Nana’s Naughty Knickers’ at Bowie Community Theatre

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In Bowie Community Theatre’s latest offering, Nana’s Naughty Knickers, Sylvia Charles (Shelley Rochester) is a modern-day New York widow who has a pretty big secret. When her granddaughter Bridget (Olivia Knoche) arrives to spend the summer with her between semesters of law school, Sylvia is desperate to keep Bridget from learning the secret. Not gonna happen.

Boldly going where no lips have gone before! Shelley Rochester as Sylvia and Sharon J. Zelefsky as Heather Van Pree. Photo by Terri Trembeth.

In the opening scene, Bridget arrives at Nana’s apartment with helpful – and clearly smitten – neighborhood cop Tom O’Grady (Randy Lindsay), who is valiantly struggling with a couple of large, heavy boxes. Bridget is appalled to learn that Officer O’Grady is on very friendly terms with Nana and is not at all sure she approves of the relationship. Bridget, as it turns out, is appalled by a lot of things and is not looking forward to spending a boring and stodgy summer at Nana’s.

Enter Nana, who is a vibrant and vigorous woman bent on enjoying life and who is definitely not your grandmother’s grandmother. She is followed, soon after, by her neighbor and best friend Vera (Joanne Bauer), who wishes at that moment that Nana was a lot less vigorous. These two are a great pair of pals who drive each other crazy but never, ever let each other down.

With some help from Ryan Ronan’s attractive set – I particularly liked the brick on the walls and the brick fireplace – and Michael Fawcett’s delightfully clever special effects, Bridget and Vera soon learn that Nana is running a very successful and highly illegal business. In fact, Nana designs, makes, and sells sexy lingerie for “mature” women. Costume designer Jeanray Barber gets major points for the lingerie fashions she created for the “models” to wear. Bridget, the budding lawyer, is more than a little fearful for her Nana if the police – or worse, the IRS – should discover the secret.

Discussing Nana’s business venture, Saucy Slips. Olivia Knoche as Bridget, Shelley Rochester as Sylvia, and Sharon J. Zelefsky as Heather Van Pree. Photo by Andrew Culhane.

I will not spoil the fun by giving further plot details. There are plenty of funny moments, some real belly laughs, and even a surprise. Audience members were definitely entertained and left the theater smiling. I had to smile myself at the reactions of a few of the teens in the audience, who appeared to be as appalled as Bridget at the notion of grannies in sexy lingerie.

Director Jennifer Franklin elicited some fine performances from her cast. Shelley Rochester crackles with energy, wit, and intelligence, and she is the best friend you wish you had. Joanne Bauer is hilarious as the ditsy but fiercely loyal Vera. Olivia Knoche as the uptight Bridget has fun trying to hide not only her Nana’s secret but also her own growing affection for Randy Lindsay’s patient and lovable Officer O’Grady. Lindsay handles the physical demands of his role very well. Sharon J. Zelefsky is a force of nature as the gum-chewing, leopard-print-clad Heather Van Pree, who sets a good many things in motion. Deserving special mention is Brad Eaton, who stepped in at the last minute to replace the late Dave McCrary. Mr. Eaton made the most of his brief appearance as the UPS delivery man and completely stole the scene while he was onstage. Vincent Dantone is a perfectly rotten, scheming landlord, and Anne Hull’s brief appearance as one of Nana’s clients is great fun.

Randy Lindsay, as Officer Tom OGrady, listens to a sob story by Vincent Dantone, as Landlord Mr. Schmidt. Photo by Andrew Culhane.

The play is somewhat uneven and the action gets lost in a couple of stretches that are dialog heavy, but it’s a light and enjoyable bit of fluff for a summer afternoon or evening. It’s a buddy story, a romantic comedy, and a story of intergenerational understanding and bonding. What I liked most about this play, however, was that it embraced the notion that today’s grandmothers are not all staying home knitting horrible sweaters and baking endless batches of cookies. They are smart, they are sexy, and they are still living lives that have value.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Nana’s Naughty Knickers plays through July 30, 2017 at Bowie Community Theatre performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call (301) 805-0219, or purchase them online.

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