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Friendship and community: Vortex Theatre to host the world premiere of the pandemic-inspired play ‘A Day at the Rusty Arms’

Franny and Malcolm live in an old building called the Rustic Arms, affectionately termed the “Rusty Arms.”

As the two best friends plot to uplift society, their tech-smart and younger colleague Risa swans through the world in a dream draped in a bloody nightgown.

Janeice Scarbrough and Frederick Ponzlov in a scene from “A Day at the Rusty Arms.” (Courtesy of The Vortex Theatre)

The Vortex Theatre will stage the world premiere of “A Day at the Rusty Arms” online at beginning on Friday, April 16 and continuing on weekends through April 25.

Playwright Susan Erickson began writing the piece when her retirement coincided with the pandemic.

“I said, ‘OK, I need a project,’ ” Erickson said. “I’ve had these characters swirling around my head for a while, but I didn’t know what to do with them until this hit.”

She began writing pages and pages of dialogue. She edited the play down to three characters because of the pandemic. As she worked, an overall theme of friendship and community emerged.

“Think of the (Beatles) song ‘With a Little Help From My Friends,’ ” she said.

Franny and Malcolm, played by Janeice Scarbrough and Frederick Ponzlov, are two energetic seniors searching for meaning. They decided to launch Senior Corps, staffed with said seniors, to help everyone.

“Think the Peace Corps,” Erickson said. “Their slogan is ‘From pandemics to potholes.’ ”

The pair’s young neighbor Risa volunteers to help them with technology. Soon the trio schedule a funding meeting with the mayor, whom they nickname “Hot Rod.” As the time approaches, Risa disappears.

It turns out, Risa suffers from a sleep disorder.

“It’s very surreal, her behavior,” director David Richard Jones said. “She gives a political speech about running for president.”

“She breaks up with a parking meter,” Erickson added. “It’s a comedy with a whole lot of heart and hopefully some meaningful issues.”

Thanks to vaccinations and more relaxed COVID restrictions, the Vortex will present the work as a filmed play as opposed to doing monologues, Jones said.

“We started with Zoom rehearsals. We went on to COVID-safe. By the time we were shooting, the vaccines were all over town. We’ve got everything but an audience.”

“The play’s a one-act comedy rich in eccentric characters and wacky wisdom,” he continued. “A pair of oldsters try to save the world. What can possibly go wrong?”

Thanks to funding from the city of Albuquerque and New Mexico Arts, all tickets are free, but reservations must be made on the Vortex website.

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