"Nana's Naughty Knickers" is a farce by Katherine DiSalvino. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

LAKE WALES – Are you ever too old to fall in love?
If you’ve ever seen a play like “On Golden Pond,” you know that the desire to love and be loved is eternal, and doesn’t end when you hit retirement age.
A better question might be …. are you ever too old to want to look, and feel, positively sexy?
Katherine DiSalvino’s comedic play “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” aims to answer that question, in a style that’s been happily employed in the past by sitcom writers, starting with “I Love Lucy” and going all the way up to the likes of “Three’s Company”: what happens if you really, truly need to hide something from the authorities but you’re just not that good at it?
Let the screwball comedy begin.
Beneath all the zany gags, though, is an interesting premise that holds some relevance in our current slow-paced economy: the need to find your economic niche. For Nana, that’s easy. The elderly New Yorker has discovered that friends her age don’t want to stop looking sexy and acting sexy just because they use a walker or employ lots of wrinkle cream. Some of them can remember how they once were, as Nana’s friend Vera says, “the cat’s meow.” Why should they give up that feeling of genuine sex appeal when there are elderly men who still find them beautiful and alluring?
That’s the funniest aspect of DiSalvino’s play, which is now being produced at the Lake Wales Little Theatre, Inc. – entrepreneurs may be missing a golden moment by failing to recognize the wealth of opportunity that exists in targeting the sexy senior market.
Nana gets it, which is why she loads her closets with slinky lingerie, the kind that would make your average Victoria’s Secret shopper blush. That’s certainly the reaction from Nana’s granddaughter, Brigitte – who, in another clever twist, is far more conservative than her grandmother. Brigitte can’t believe at first that Nana would be involved in selling sexy clothing – and she’s even more aghast when she learns that to make it really profitable, Nana has been avoiding pay taxes on her sales for years, keeping it all quiet and under the radar of the government and law enforcement.
Nana’s business gets even more problematic when Officer Tom, a handsome young rookie police officer, takes a liking to Brigitte and decides to start dropping by Nana’s apartment more often just to see her. Naturally, the ladies have their hands full making sure Tom doesn’t accidentally stumble across any of those frisky nightgowns and start asking nosy questions. But it doesn’t help when the landlord, suspicious of all the packages being delivered to his apartment complex, enlists Tom to start investigating what’s going on.
“Nana’s Naughty Knickers” has the feel of an “I Love Lucy” episode – you can see Nana and Vera as stand-ins for Lucy and Ethel once they reached their golden years, trying so hard to hide this and that from Ricky and Fred – except the episode comes with a far more adult-oriented subject matter than Lucy’s writers ever tackled in the 1950s. In classic farce tradition, our elderly heroines are forced to devote more and more time and energy to covering something up – and it all becomes fun figuring out how they’re going to put out the next fire, so to speak.

The Lake Wales Little Theatre is at 411 N. 3rd St. in downtown Lake Wales. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

One of the play’s funniest scenes occurs when Nana returns from a photo shoot, highly disappointed that her two elderly models had to take a pass because their assisted living facility served sauerkraut for dinner the night before, and they were incapacitated by a severe case of gas. So, in the grand tradition of insisting that the show must go on, Nana enlists Vera and, even better, Brigitte to model her knickers. Would it surprise anyone to learn that Vera is on cloud 9 doing so, while Brigitte – well, see for yourself.
Part of the pleasure of watching “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” is the happy reminder of something else: there is no age limit on the ability to perform well on stage. Both Jean Hughes as Nana and Janet Davis McCarthy as Vera have a ball playing seniors who throw themselves into the naughty nightgown industry with the kind of enthusiasm that some recent college grads could use. Whether it’s planning their latest catalog of sexy outfits or figuring out a way to lure Tom away from the closet with some milk and cookies, Hughes and McCarthy are a real joy to watch.
And yes, you can see how a lot of elderly gentlemen would find them to truly be the “cat’s meow” in those naughty knickers.
The production runs through Nov. 20, at the theater in downtown Lake Wales at 411 N. 3rd St. The play is performed at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays. Tickets cost $14 for adults and $10 for those 18 and younger. To learn more or to order tickets, log on to www.LTLT.org or call 863-679-8587.

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