Best If Used By Debuts with Local Talent in Newburyport


A chorus girl kicks up her heels — an actor jumps around on furniture — no big surprise.  In the theatre, these things happen. But usually, the chorus girl and the table-hopper aren’t senior citizens. This fall, two North Shore actors in the range of 80 years old will star in a new bittersweet stage comedy, Best If Used By.

The biting and sometimes surprising humor of the story focuses on issues of aging and ageism — topics of growing concern to increasing numbers of Americans.

This premiere, October 12-15 at Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport, is presented by Firehouse and the Ipswich Art Association.

Best If Used By, featuring well-known actors Becky Axelrod of Essex and Barbara Bourgeois of Andover, is directed by acclaimed Castle Hill stage director Kristina Grundmann of Ipswich.

The Inspiration

Grundmann’s husband Doug Brendel, a writer and amateur actor, originally met both Axelrod and Bourgeois as his fellow cast members in separate community theatre productions.

“Becky in her show was doing these awesome dance moves and belting out songs,” Brendel remembers, “and Barbara in her show was literally jumping up on a table and crawling around on the floor. I couldn’t have done what either of them was doing!”

In the course of casual conversations, however, each woman mentioned to him how hard it is for women in their age bracket to find roles in the theatre.

“Becky and Barbara are both so talented,” Brendel says, “it suddenly occurred to me what a loss it is to the world when either one of them isn’t onstage.”

The two actors had never met, but Brendel brought them together, wrote the play they had inspired, and produced a staged reading at Stage 284 in Hamilton last year. The audience “test-driving” the show responded enthusiastically.

Plot Twists

Best If Used By is an encounter between two elderly actors trying out for the same role. Turns out they’re both early for the audition, and they both have a long-ago relationship with the director — who is late.

The developing dialogue is by turns hilarious, poignant — and provocative. The story also turns out to be about love and loss, resentment and reconciliation.

“There are some surprises to be revealed in these two women’s intertwined life stories,” the playwright says.

“It’s a comedy, but I think it’s also important,” Brendel adds, “because it spotlights society’s natural tendency to discount the value of the elderly.”

The world premiere run in Newburyport may be only the beginning. “Every community seems to have excellent female actors of a certain age who aren’t being adequately utilized,” Brendel says. “This show could become a valuable outlet for them — and I hope it will strike a blow against ageism along the way.”

Tickets are available at for the play’s five performances: on Thursday, October 12, and Friday, October 13, at 7 p.m.; on Saturday, October 14, at 2 p.m. (followed by a Q&A with the playwright) and 7 p.m.; and on Sunday, October 15, at 2 p.m.  Info at

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