2017-11-02 / Front Page

'Red Hot Mama' Will Shake Off the Blues

By James Merolla


Erin Mulry (standing) lets her mother-in-law (Sharon Coleman) move in to her empty nest, setting off a series of comic mishaps in "Red Hot Mamas," staged Nov. 10, 11 and 12 at the Edward King House . The play is penned by Newport's David Christner. (Photo by James Merolla) Erin Mulry (standing) lets her mother-in-law (Sharon Coleman) move in to her empty nest, setting off a series of comic mishaps in "Red Hot Mamas," staged Nov. 10, 11 and 12 at the Edward King House . The play is penned by Newport's David Christner. (Photo by James Merolla) “It will give you the chance to connect again!”

“We haven’t connected since he stopped nursing.”

Those two lines hold the comic essence of “Red Hot Mamas,” a new comedy by Newport’s David Christner at the Edward King House.

At the end of last year, the city’s senior center began a brave foray into black box theater. It opened with “Love Letters,” a safe, two-person staple romance, and followed with a one-man show based on the life of prominent labor lawyer and civil libertarian Clarence Darrow.

“Red Hot Mamas” challenges the skills of director Rob Reimer, producer Carmela Geer and the show’s technical crew.


Erin Mulry argues the merits of letting their in-laws move in with husband Bobby Sylvia in the Edward King House production of "Red Hot Mamas," being staged Nov. 10, 11 and 12. The play is authored by Newport's David Christner. (Photo by James Merolla) Erin Mulry argues the merits of letting their in-laws move in with husband Bobby Sylvia in the Edward King House production of "Red Hot Mamas," being staged Nov. 10, 11 and 12. The play is authored by Newport's David Christner. (Photo by James Merolla) This is a seven-person show on a unit set with a slew of music and lighting cues. In the light-hearted tradition of Neil Simon, although perilously close to falling into the realm of sitcom, “Red Hot Mamas” offers a spare room full of laughter.

The play is carried along by tuneful, familiar 1970s music, each song chosen to reflect the theme of the scene that has just unfolded. It centers on Abby Adams and Dan Casey, middle-aged empty nesters looking forward to enjoying the first period of solitude they’ve had in years.

Their plans change abruptly, however, when Abby invites her newly widowed mother-in-law, Sarah, to move in. Sarah (see opening lines) has not connected to her uber-driven son Dan since weaning. He is mortified, offering alternatives. “I’ll bring in a drug lord! I’ll get some foster kids!”

Sarah immediately phones Claudia, Abby’s mother, to tell her the “wonderful” news. Claudia, who goes by several salacious nicknames, doesn’t get along with her daughter. The in-laws can’t abide each other, either.

Playing the guilt card, Claudia maneuvers herself into the household as well, and by week’s end both mothers-in-law have packed their belongings and are descending on their besieged offspring.

The widows stake claims in the children’s nest. A toilet, false teeth and a hot-water bottle are props of note.

After a rough beginning, the mothers-in-law bond in Act 2 and let their spirits soar, drinking, smoking, ignoring curfews and flaunting “parental” control. But is it the mothers who are out of control?

“You’re right…nuclear holocaust doesn’t sound so bad right now…” Abby says near the end of Act 1.

Abby is played by fetching newcomer Erin Mulry, husband Dan by likeable Bobby Slyvia, and Mary Pevear and Sharon Coleman play the in-laws with wicked good humor and superb timing. Veterans Stan Walker, Russ Neary and Michael Healy round out the cast in Act 2.

According to producers, the play initially received a workshop production at New Gate Theatre in Providence, part of a new plays festival. It was subsequently produced in Canberra, Australia as part of a national “Year of the Older Person” celebration. Since then, the play has had a number of runs in theaters in the U.S., India, Canada and a protracted professional run at Detroit Repertory Theatre.

Playwright David Christner was born in Tennessee and raised in a small farming community in southwestern Oklahoma. After a stint with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam and Norfolk, Virginia, he settled permanently in South County, just across the bay from Newport, where he had attended Officer Candidate School.

Christner’s plays include, “The Wall,” “Bui-Doi: The Dust of Life,” “Thy Brother’s Wife,” “The Babe,” “The Bard and the Baron,” “The Bitch of Baily’s Beach,” “Ezra and Evil,” “What About Mimi?” and “This Blood’s for You.”

According to various synopses, speculations on the cosmos, sex, war, religion, injustice, environmental exploitation, aging, women’s issues, the homeless and capital punishment have formed the thematic content of his plays and novels.

Somehow, many of those diverse themes, plus a toilet, fill the pages of “Red Hot Mamas.” With every flush, a blush.

For tickets, edwardkinghouse.org or call 401-846-7426 ext. 1. The show will run Friday through Sunday, Nov. 3-5, and Nov. 10-12.

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