Jeanne Madison (from left), Rebecca Morris, and Kimberly Sias. Photo / Colleen Albrecht

Karamu’s ‘Sassy Mamas’ goes from comedic to heartfelt in a heartbeat

By Bob Abelman

It would be wise for mid-life men to stay far, far away from Celeste Bedford Walker’s romantic comedy “Sassy Mamas,” which is getting its Ohio premiere at Karamu House.

The show revolves around three female best friends in the autumn of their lives who are in search of a May-December relationship on their own terms.

Jo Billie (Kimberly Sias) is a widowed hospital executive who desires a shallow, hard-bodied boy-toy to play with, no strings attached. Enter LaDonte (Cameron Woods), who meets all the prerequisites.

Mary (Rebecca Morris) was abandoned by her husband, is recently divorced and in desperate need of romance, which her sweet and inexperienced gardener Colby (Bryon Tobin) is more than happy to cultivate.

Wilhemina (Jeanne Madison) is looking for love but can’t find the time while serving as an advisor to the President of the United States. Wes (Michael Head), a young, ex-jock journalist with 6-pack abs finds her.

This risqué comedy is all about female empowerment in the boardroom and the bedroom, with the young men in it serving as frequently shirtless fantasy fodder. The only place for older men in “Sassy Mamas” is as a doormat, the sagging butt of jokes about half-blind dates, and on the receiving end of one-liners about sex hampered by arthritis and augmented by Viagra.

Clearly aimed at audiences with two X chromosomes, “Sassy Mamas” reveals some amusing truths about life, love and menopause. It is written in the same effervescent spirit of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and is equally heartfelt in its portrayal of female friendship.

This production boasts absolutely charming and immediately endearing performances by everyone on stage, with Sias, Morris and Madison handling the comedy and the poignancy with equal aplomb. The show is staged with the quick pace and seamless fluidity of a sitcom by Tony Sias, the theater’s President and CEO, who is making his Karamu directorial debut.

The action takes place in three condos at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., decorated to reflect the personalities of their respective occupants. So does their wardrobe, with Inda Blatch-Geib responsible for the spot-on scenic and costume designs. Ambient sound and cool jazz between scenes is supplied by Jeremy Dobbins.

Mid-life men should seriously consider dropping off their wives at the theater entrance, finding safe-haven elsewhere for two hours, and returning with a new-found interest in gardening.

“Sassy Mamas”

WHERE: Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th St., Cleveland

WHEN: Through March 4

TICKETS & INFO: $15-$37, Call 216-795-7077 or visit

Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at 2017 AP Ohio Media Editors best columnist.

Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on February 12, 2018.

Lead image: Jeanne Madison (from left), Rebecca Morris, and Kimberly Sias. Photo / Colleen Albrecht