Synopsis of “The Gingerbread Lady” by Neil Simon
Neil Simon’s 1970 play is far removed from the comedies that made his name, being a dark and disturbing tale of addiction, dependence and regret with some comic overtones. The Gingerbread Lady centres on Ava Meara, a cabaret singer whose career, marriage, and health have all been destroyed by alcohol. The play opens as she returns home having just completed a ten-week stint in a rehab facility to overcome her addiction. She has been collected from the clinic by her friend Toby, an overly vain woman age-defying woman who fears the loss of her looks. In her flat she receives warm welcome from her troubled friend Jimmy Perry, a homosexual actor full of insecurities as he is in danger of losing a part in a play. Her estranged and anxious teenaged daughter, Polly arrives and eventually Eva reluctantly agrees to Polly living again with her. Polly’s childhood memory of her mother as ‘the gingerbread lady’ gives the play its title. Enter Lou Tanner, a former lover, a charismatic but dangerous figure who ends up giving Eva a black eye. Jimmy continually tries to help Ava to adjust to sobriety and arranges a jolly birthday party to celebrate Toby’s birthday. However, Ava’s efforts at hosting the party crumble as she spectacularly falls off the wagon, heated and cruel words are exchanged between the friends and careers toward a tragic end.
Ava Meara …. Jackie Finlay
Jimmy Perry …. Bruce Cunningham
Lou Tanner …. Adam Hurst
Polly Meara …. Catherine Geekie
Toby Landau …. Denise Glazer
Manuel …. Adam Hurst
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Memories, Letters and Publicity
Whilst hunting through the theatre’s archive, I came across this hand-drawn pencil sketch (click on it to enlarge).
Although clearly dated Nov. ’01 and depicting the set of The Gingerbread Lady, the artist raises an interesting question: was he ‘Jack Harborough’ who helpfully annotated his sketch ‘theatre’, or was he ‘Jack’ from a theatre in Harborough (a local government district of Leicestershire, named after its main town, Market Harborough)? Patrons did travel quite considerable distances to support us; I do hope he wasn’t so bored that he passed the time in sketching! We may never know…
And for your delectation, here’s the sound man’s effects’ cue sheet. Some of the fx were on tape (the music, champagne cork popping – guess how we recorded that one! – gas hissing – and no, we didn’t use real gas, just hissed into the recorder’s mic – but for the others we used a real doorbell and real phone. The stage manager (SM on the sheet) opened and closed the nearby door to the bar on cue. Simples.