On the face of it, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord is a comedic tale of a battle of wits between Abby (Nancye Hayes) and Marilyn (Carmel Johnson), two residents of the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. Abby enjoys her solitude and the view from her highly coveted window. Marylin, having recently taken residency in the spare bed of Abby’s room, loves nothing more than socialising with the other residents and regaling Abby with tales of her family. Faced with this Odd Couple-esque pairing, and fed up with Marilyn’s seemingly endless chatter, Abby devises a bet that sets off a chain of events, unravelling the iron-clad rigidity of her world and revealing the truth behind Marylin’s sunny disposition.

At once acerbic, witty and heartbreaking, Ripcord has moments of hilarity but overall takes the audience on a journey behind the lives of these two formidable women. Nancye Hayes and Carmel Johnson are faultless in their roles, each clearly relishing the performance. Ably supported by an impressive cast­­ (Chris Asimos, Jennifer Innes, Ezra Juanta and the ever-unsurpassable Nathan Page), the characters create a seamless and immersive narrative. An undertone of loss and grief bubbles beneath the gags and occasionally threatens to swallow the play whole, but all in all the blend of comedy and tragedy makes Ripcord an enjoyable cautionary tale: when a bet between two wills of steel has no limits, how far is too far?

As Abby and Marilyn’s darkest secrets are exposed in the name of rivalry, Ripcord is a poignant story of unexpectedly finding peace, friendship, family…and freefalling.

3.5 stars

Ripcord is showing at Dunstan Playhouse until Sunday 13 December. Check the State Theatre Company’s website for COVID-19 updates and purchase tickets here.

By Leila Hallak-Low