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Detria Ward, Alice M. Gatling and Michele Harrell in Sassy Mamas.

Image: David Bray

Sassy Mamas is Ensemble Theatre’s latest laugh-until-you-cry production, opening on September 22. Written by award-winning playwright Celeste Bedford Walker, the two-act romantic comedy tells the story of three, well, sassy older women who create a comical sport of dating younger men.

Jo Billie Massey (Alice M. Gatling), a fiery widow, Wilhemina Sorenson (Detria Ward), a powerful career woman and Mary Wooten (Michele Harrell), a grieving divorcée, band together in a series of dating mishaps and sexual exploration. With the highly amusing truths of life and love, the show’s premiere was met with raucous applause from all ages

“I like the fact that it tells women to stop limiting themselves to think, ‘Oh, he has to be older’ or ‘He has to be our age,’” says Gatling. “If we do date younger, it’s still taboo, but I’m getting into the mindset of ‘Date who you love.’ Is that not the theme of today?” 

Directed by Eileen J. Morris, the hilarious comedy addresses dating after 40. With stellar performances by the show’s leading men, Kedrick Brown, Steve Scott and Roc Living, the stage is brought to life in a thought-provoking narrative that spotlights the emotional and sexual journeys of fledgling relationships. 

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Alice M. Gatling and Kedrick Brown

Image: David Bray

It is the script’s sultry innuendos that bring home the most laughs. However, Gatling did worry that some of the suggestive humor would alienate church-going attendants. “Honestly, the show is risqué. In rehearsals, you go as far as you can possibly go, and then you pull back,” says Gatling. 

But the touching depiction of female friendships ultimately shifts the comedy to a heartfelt production, which Gatling attributes to her longtime history with Ward. She also credits Ensemble for its deep-rooted sense of faith, which is evident throughout each actor’s performance. 

“I’ve worked at theaters across the country, but this theater prays before every show,” says Gatling. “And I’m like, ‘That’s how you create an ensemble!’” 

Sept 22–Oct 16. $23–50. Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main St. 713-520-0055. ensemblehouston.com

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