By Hugh Hunter
Before all those 1990s’ TV shows that explored the trials of singles and their sex lives, there was “Fast Girls” by Diana Amsterdam. Now running at East Falls’ Old Academy Players, this entertaining play helped lead the way in plowing the same comedic ground.
“Fast Girls” centers on Lucy Lewis, a 36-year-old single woman. Does she want marriage or “freedom”? She has already had it both ways. Lucy married as a young woman, but husband Tommy betrayed her. Recently, she broke up with boyfriend Sidney because she feared he was too possessive.
These days, not many plays observe the classical unities of place and time. But in “Fast Girls” all action takes place in Lucy’s apartment in the span of one day. Directed by Sarah Labov, the set is a richly furnished loft that somehow makes the small stage feel spacious. A side window helps, a luminous view of the Manhattan skyline where colors, clouds and lights change with the day’s progress.
The Old Academy production milks Amsterdam’s script for its comic potential. The chemistry and comedic timing between Maggie Cummings as Lucy and Jennifer Sivers/Roberts, who plays best friend Abigail, is especially engaging. It is yet another instance of a dramatic set-up in which opposites pair perfectly.
Attractive, liberated Lucy now goes in for one-night stands. The play opens with her sending off 23-year-old Joe Malone (Tom England). But Cummings’ expressive body language suggests her lusty tryst did little to ease an underlying unhappiness. Abigail has more trouble getting dates and waits in vain to hear from feckless Ernest. She lives a vicarious life, eavesdrops on her friend through paper-thin apartment walls, then rushes in to encourage, counsel and conspire.
But old boyfriend Sidney (Eric Rupp) refuses to fade into the sunset. Sidney has an eye for absurdity and is full of sardonic one liners. In contrast to lothario Joe, he looks as comfortable as an old shoe and promises Lucy love and stability. So, what is poor Lucy to do? Lucy’s mother, Mitzi Lewis, has something to say about all this.
Susan Lonker has the Jewish mother shtick down pat, an irrepressible woman with an itch to stir the pot. In fact, Mitzi does become the real agent of change. You feel satisfied in seeing Lucy come to terms, then watch with amusement as Lucy and Abigail switch roles.
There are relationship issues here, and Amsterdam frames problems sensibly. But “Fast Girls” is mostly just fun to watch. In sit-com fashion, no one is evil — rascally at the most — and good will prevails. The Amsterdam script gives the troupers a chance, and the Old Academy production makes the most of it.
Old Academy Players is located at 3544 Indian Queen Lane. “Fast Girls” will run through Nov. 19. More information: 215-843-1109.