A&E Music: Playwright Taps Local Star Power for World Premiere

Carbonell Award-winner Jeni Hacker stars in Ronnie Larsen’s new comedy, “Grindr Mom,” opening this weekend at Wilton Theater Factory. Submitted photo.

For his latest comedy, playwright and producer Ronnie Larsen has enlisted the talents of Carbonell Award-winning director Stuart Meltzer and actress Jeni Hacker.

“This show is very different from anything I’ve written before,” said Larsen, whose Off-Broadway hit “Making Porn” and other bawdy gay comedies have been produced around the world. “There’s no nudity or sex — at least not on the stage!”

“Grindr Mom” is the story of a mild-mannered suburban housewife who becomes curious about her gay son’s love life. After he mentions meeting a guy on a “dating” site (“Grindr”), she decides she needs to learn more about “the whole gay thing.” She creates a fake profile on the hook-up app and quickly discovers more about gay mating rituals than she could have ever imagined.

Larsen promised lots of laughs in the one-woman show, but some serious moments, as well. As “Pepsi Guzzler,” the Mormon mom is confronted with lots of cheesy one-liners about coke (cocaine) and PnP from her would-be suitors.

“She becomes obsessed with the whole thing and discovers that gay men are everywhere — church, school, the grocery store — and they’re all looking for sex!” he chuckled. “More importantly, the show challenges the gay community, too. She wonders why we fought so hard for marriage when we don’t seem to respect the institution.”

There’s also a big surprise ending, and not necessarily the happy kind, but Larsen was mum, avoiding any spoilers.

One thing was certain in his mind: he would need a very strong actress. The show started as a 10-minute monologue written for last year’s “Hook Ups,” a collection of short plays, which Larsen reworked and extended this summer. 

“I knew I needed a master storyteller and that was Jeni Hacker,” he explained. “She’s just wonderful. I sent her the monologue and she loved it.”

Hacker, a familiar face in South Florida theaters and an Actors Equity member, proudly displays two Carbonell statues for her work at Miami’s Zoetic Stage — one for best actress in the 2016 production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion” and the other for best supporting actress in the 2017 world premiere of “After.” She also starred as the conflicted mother in the theater’s critically acclaimed production of “Fun Home,” the Tony-winning musical about a lesbian cartoonist who must come to grips with the suicide of her gay father.

While Larsen traditionally directs his own plays, he felt Zoetic’s resident artistic director Stuart Meltzer would be the perfect fit. The openly gay Meltzer, who wrote and directed the Carbonell-winning family drama “The Goldberg Variations,” has a keen understanding of the dynamics of complicated families, Larsen pointed out, and is also simply one of the best directors in the region.

“This is a dream team,” Larsen said proudly, especially because the play relies solely on the powerful performance of its star with no set and virtually no lighting cues, “and I think audiences are going to be really surprised by ‘Grindr Mom.’”

Jeni Hacker stars in the world premiere of Ronnie Larsen’s “Grindr Mom,” July 19 – 27 at Wilton Theater Factory, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $25-35 at RonnieLarsen.com.