“My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – October 24, 2021


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

A delicate, touching, and revealing look at an unusual but amazingly sincere relationship between 80-year-old Milton and a much younger woman is explored eloquently by performer/author Charissa Bertels in her one-woman tribute to her inspiring relationship.  Bertels plays both roles with superb definition as she holds the stage dynamically for the almost two-hour play.  That is no easy task in a one-person, multi-character script.

With only pianist Jose C. Simbulan playing this show’s simple but tender score, Bertels crafts the relationship between these two characters with splashes from other participants who help explain the rich relationship between the two central characters.  The pair meet and gruff Milton and Charissa, a struggling actor, are infatuated with each other spiritually.  As they spend more time together, they are enriched by the other’s foibles as they become strong supporters of each other as they rally each other at times of crisis and challenges.  Milton has lived a checkered and disappointing life even though he had the money to make his life flawless.  After endless auditions, Charissa is finally cast in a significant role.

It’s a genuine, funny, and moving relationship, the kind we rarely witness today as other more dramatic life situations guide and control our existence.  It is so nice to think that this rare kind of devotion is still possible and, by the play’s conclusion, you will be moved by this uncluttered but ever so meaningful connection.

From the time Bertels bounds on stage, she brings endless energy and enthusiasm to her real-life role.  Her involvement in this rare and exquisite relationship stimulates her to bring unbridled excitement to the character but her amusing take on Milton is also marvelously defined and makes us understand why the two came to depend so heavily on each other.

It is rare that such a true situation evolves into such a moving piece of theater and not only is Bertels gifted but director Sean Daniels, Arizona Theatre Company’s artistic director, carefully plans the play’s every movement to intensify the emotionalism of the piece.  It is simply presented so nothing detracts from the play’s tender message about how a sincere relationship can result when two people so enrich each other.

“My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend” plays through November 7 and a more moving statement about a mutual relationship is hard to imagine.  Order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org/show/my-80-year-old-boyfriend/.

Grade: A