At Long Last Love – BILL WAXMAN’S NEW PLAY RIFFS ON LOVE IN THE GOLDEN YEARS

The cast of "The Coot Elimination Committee" includes, back row from left, Jerry Oshinsky, Stuart Orenstein, Ed Giron and Sandy McOwen; seated, from left, Tim heard that phrase and right then and there Whitcomb, Deborah Helm, Julie Allen and Char Smith.
The cast of “The Coot Elimination Committee” includes, back row from left, Jerry Oshinsky, Stuart Orenstein, Ed Giron and Sandy McOwen; seated, from left, Tim Whitcomb, Deborah Helm, Julie Allen and Char Smith.

Writer and director Bill Waxman was visiting his wife’s stepmother and significant other in a retirement community in Palm Springs. That’s where he heard about a committee that had been established to rid their environs of a disruptive duck-like bird: The Coot Elimination Committee.

“It was like a gift,” Mr. Waxman says. “I heard that phrase and right then and there I thought, this is a play. I came home and sat down and about a month later I had the play. It rolled right out.”

Ms. Helm and Mr. Whitcomb as Mike and Martha
Ms. Helm and Mr. Whitcomb as Mike and Martha

The play with the same name opens Thursday at Carpinteria Plaza Theater, and doesn’t deal so much with waterfowl as it does with a retired couple Mike and Martha (Tim Whitcomb and Deborah Helm) and the neighbor Carl (Ed Giron) who is hired to spy on the wife by the husband.

The two protagonists are loosely based on the couple Mr. Waxman met, but the plot is purely his own. “The more I wrote the more interesting it became, about people who live long lives and harbor secrets and aren’t the people they say they are.”

In this comedy, love, which could involve items like a clitoral sucking vibrator, does conquer all, but it takes a bit to get there. Mr. Whitcomb’s Mike was a man with a lifelong crush on Martha, and he watched as she got married not once but twice. Now in their golden years, he believes he’s finally got her as they’ve settled down together.

For Martha, Mike does provide a nice solid foundation, however, “She is carrying around some tremendously onerous secrets, that Mike has to aid and rescue her from.”

Next-door neighbor Carl also has his own secrets, but Mr. Waxman won’t reveal them in interview. We’ll just have to come see the play, he says.

Mr. Waxman is a long-time actor in town, recently associated with DIJO Productions (“New Jerusalem” “The Exonerated” and “The English Bride”). He also directed their production of “Tally’s Folly” and wrote and directed the musical play about fibromyalgia, “Fighting the Invisible.”

His cast are also regulars, people he’s worked with, especially the two leads.

“Tim and Deborah are not only great to direct, but I’ve worked with them on other plays and they really do seem like a couple,” Mr. Waxman says.

In the end the play is a fun musing on age and commitment.

“No matter how long you’ve lived with somebody, you never really fully, totally, completely know the person,” he says. “But the fact that you fully, totally, completely love them doesn’t change.”

This is Mr. Waxman’s fourth play, and over the years he’s learned not to force it. When he’s tried to write during long stretches of no inspiration, nothing has happened. But when he wasn’t looking for it, inspiration came. “I had no idea that this trip would lead to this play,” he says, adding that you just have to go where it takes you.

“When you’re writing, if you’re not surprised at what comes out of the characters, then the audience won’t be either.”

The Coot Elimination Committee
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through May 18.
Where: Plaza Playhouse Theatre, 4916 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria
Cost: $12-$17
Information: 684-6380, plazatheatercarpinteria.com

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