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Some degree of morbidity should be expected with anything that concerns the aging process, but Vicki Caroline Cheatwood’s Manicures and Monuments almost feels like a funeral procession. Early on, Cheatwood appears to have a lot of affection for the residents of the Oklahoma nursing home depicted in her script: They’re lively despite their infirmities, and the flurry of activity in the background sustains more interest than the budding relationship at the play’s emotional center. But Manicures and Monuments assumes a far more cynical tone after intermission, as the supporting characters recede into tragic props that enable the protagonists to move beyond piss-and-vinegar interactions toward begrudging respect and friendship. Mutual obstinacy is what binds wheelchair-using crank Lucinda Bailey (Marilyn Bennett) and young manicurist-in-training Janann (Tiffany Fillmore) together; uncommonly good chemistry between the two actors is what ultimately enlivens Cheatwood’s belabored and elliptical dialogue. Though the script seems singularly focused (at least during the rushed second act) on tying a neat bow on Bailey and Janann’s awkward encounters, director Deborah Kirby and her ensemble earnestly attempt to add a little color and shape to the gray matter. And the set’s attention to detail is admirable: a broken clock set to twilight hours; a mess of photos, colored paper cutouts, and activity charts neatly organized along one wall. The supporting characters—an aging Southern belle (Glee Murray) and the institution’s answer to Nurse Ratched (Sarah Melinda)—are similarly indelible, as are their performances and Kirby’s staging. But any gravitational pull between Bailey and Janann, even allowing for uncommon rules of attraction, proves too hard to swallow. Cheatwood’s solution is to nudge the generation gap closed with an unnecessarily corrosive turn of events—which heaps melodrama onto an already telegraphed outcome. Certainly she could have found these women some common ground without relying on a mounting death toll to push them closer together. Like Tuesdays With Morrie, Manicures and Monuments suffers from a kind of tunnel vision: Its story of young and old folks learning from one another is predicated on the notion that age differences can be easily surmounted. Schmaltz? You’re soaking in it.—Nick Green