ON STAGE: ACT II’s ‘I Will Not Go Gently’ laughs at aging

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For Digital First Media

When Jennifer Childs takes to the stage, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you can be sure it’s going to be funny. This Barrymore winning actress, has such a range of talent, that she can play anyone, anywhere, anyhow. This time, she is tackling something much larger than her diminutive frame — she is talking about dealing with aging. Well, the handful of characters she is portraying are talking about it. In her one-woman-show, she takes on the issues of dealing with turning a decade.
“Do Not Got Gentle into that Good Night” is a famous poem written by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas before he was even 40. It is a passionate rage against the onslaught of death as the poet tells those nearing death, to fight against the dying of the light. Childs’ play, “I Will Not Go Gently,” is in fact, a much gentler approach.

What: “I Will Not Go Gently”
Where: Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA, 19002
When: Now through Jan. 29.
Info.: Call (215) 654-0200 or check www.act2.org.

Sierra Mist, a rock star in her 20’s, is attempting a comeback tour as she is about to turn 50. She talks with the people back stage and with the press, trying to cope with a new era while convincing herself and her fans, that she is still is relevant. Filled with the energy of youth (though not necessarily the talent) she fires off a slew of very funny lines that the audience clearly enjoys and identifies with.
Among that treasured audience is Abbey, an insomniac podcasting fan of Sierra, who is rattling off blogs at 3:30 a.m. She too is trying to cope with a life that she didn’t anticipate. As we meet Abbey, her adolescent daughter and her stand-up comic grandmother, we laugh at not just what they say, but who we are — yes, I said we. Childs’ smart show is a reminder that we are laughing at ourselves as we laugh at what is around us.
Around me in the filled house of the intimate Act II space, was an audience that was clearly an older crowd — over 50. We have passed many of the anxieties of the 9’s. We’ve been 49, 59, 69, and even older. We’ve struggled with modern technology as we’ve aged. We engage in yoga to stay limber.
Childs’ characters remind us of all that we confront. She dons a wig here or a simple costume there, to present a universal woman, each trying to convince herself that she is still vital. Abbey herself informs us that at 47, she has probably lived more than half her life.
Not every scene works. The one surrounding the school reunion was strained. Some jokes land better than others. But the play moves rapidly on to the next scene as the energetic and passionate Childs amazes us with her versatility.
Sierra sings her trademark, naughty song “Jack in My Box.” She dons a cape to portray a super woman, a self-help TV guru. It’s not Dylan Thomas. It’s not a deeply profound piece. It’s just fun. It’s comedy. It’s the way Sierra, and the other women choose to not go gently.

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