‘Queen of Bingo’ opens June 15

From left are Wilma Tripodi and Anita Mergener as Sis and Babe.
by Mark Favazza

Whether or not you like playing bingo, you are in for a light-hearted, fun-filled show at The Lancaster Players’ (TLP) presentation of “The Queen of Bingo,” written by Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy. With performances running Thursday, June 15 through July 1, imagine the playhouse is really the bingo hall at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Father Mac, the benevolent and kind parish priest, is overseeing all the bingo action. What’s more, you even get to join in that action!

Enter Sis and Babe, the two main characters in the play, actually played by real sisters, Wilma Tripodi and Anita Mergener. What unfolds as the play begins is less about who is the queen of bingo and more about two women on the other side of 50 who have come ready to play and in Babe’s case, are desperately hoping to win. Yes, they are sisters by birth, but that is about all that they have in common.

Sis, the older of the two, is a svelte, composed woman who seems quite content with bingo nights as a past-time to fill in the gaps of loneliness she might otherwise experience. By contrast, Babe is edgy and not at all content with just playing bingo…she wants to win. Both are seasoned bingo players who regularly sit together at the same table, display their collected good luck charms, lucky trolls, colorful daubers and magnetic bingo chips, for easy pick up,…all part of the fun and accessories recognizable to any diehard bingo fan.

While Sis, played by Wilma Tripodi, thoroughly enjoys the social aspects of bingo nights as much as the possibility of winning some money or prizes, the obvious pleasure she takes in gossiping about and keeping an eye on other players is disrupted by the emotional volatility of her sister. Babe, played by Anita Mergener, has just come off another of her binge battles with food, sugar and self-loathing it seems, which accounts for her widely-ranging mood swings. She easily fluctuates between the exciting anticipation of winning big at bingo and her fear of running into Coach Anderson, a would-be paramour who she is desperately avoiding due to her current appearance. Sis knows how to push all her emotional buttons. Who would have thought that bingo could be an answer to the challenges of a mid-life crisis?

Father Mac, played by the director of The Queen of Bingo, Randal Tyler, is no stranger to the stage at TLP and brings his persona to this kind priest as he leads everyone through the night of bingo challenge and intrigue. The caller is Bruce Hamilton, best known as the man behind the “sound” in the tech booth at the Playhouse. He has served faithfully at TLP for the past 10 years.

The play will be staged at 8 p.m. June 15, 16, 17, 23, 24, 29, 30 and July 1; and at 3 p.m. June 25. The theater and cash bar will open an hour prior to the show.

Tickets are $20 per adult. Get your bingo card and reservations for any of the nine performances at lancasterplayers.org, call 435-3776, or email office@lancasterplayers.org.

Mark Favazza is board president of The Lancaster Players.