Grandpa Harry’s Got a Big Secret – "Wrinkles"

It turns out that Grandpa Harry’s big secret is that he is, at the age of 73, an internet porn star in Japan. Of course, this is a shocking revelation to his daughter and grandson.

My husband Joe and I were privileged to attend the world premiere of “Wrinkles,” written by Paul Kikuchi, directed by Jeff Liu, and presented by East West Players. I must admit that I approached the performance with some trepidation because of the premise of the story and because Keiro Senior HealthCare had agreed to be a community partner for this production. Much to my delight, the play was funny, sweet, and poignant. And, as described by the Los Angeles Times, “There’s nothing in ‘Wrinkles’ that would offend your average Sunday school teacher.”

Wrinkles, an East West Players Production

Wrinkles, an East West Players Production

In the play, Grandpa Harry (played by Sab Shimono) has come to live with his attorney daughter, Nancy (played by Amy Hill) and grandson, Jason (played by Ki Hong Lee), because of his gambling debts. Nancy, a single mom, is struggling to break through the “glass ceiling” in her law firm by working long hours on a hugely important sexual harassment case, while 17-year-old Jason is struggling with his next phase of life – going to college as his mom expects or some unidentified future of his own making. Add to this, Grandpa Harry’s co-star, “Teena with two E’s” (played by Elizabeth Ho) who provides compassion and understanding to Harry, Nancy, and Jason.

In the program notes and to introduce the production, Tim Dang, producing artistic director of East West Players, thanked Keiro Senior HealthCare for being a community partner “and bringing awareness to issues affecting today’s senior citizens and their adult children.” Tim wrote, “Although Wrinkles is presented as an entertaining comedy in a situation that may appear farfetched, the senior health issues brought up are very real.”

The book, Communications and Aging, by Jake Harwood, Associate Professor of Communication and chair of the interdisciplinary graduate program in Gerontology at the University of Arizona, concludes that media portrayals of older adults are neither fair nor realistic. Older adults are not portrayed in accord with their real presence in the population, and they are rarely shown in ways that represent the true experience of being old in all its depth and breadth.

[Seniors] do not see themselves portrayed and when then do; it’s in a demeaning manner. They’re referred to as “over the hill,” “old goats” and “old farts”—oh please, ugly ways of talking about us. —Doris Roberts [Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond], Interview with the Parents Television Council, 2003.

Not that being an internet porn star represents anyone’s “true representation of being old,” but “Wrinkles” portrayed Grandpa Harry as someone who clearly knew who he was and was making his own choices in life. (More about the media’s portrayals of older adults in my next blog about AARP’s 10th Annual Movies for Grownups Awards; to learn more about family dynamics, attend The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro’s Caring for the Caregiver Conference, High Tech and High Touch to Age in Place at Home, on Saturday, May 21, 2011, at the Orange County Buddhist Church.)

I am always proud to be associated with Keiro Senior HealthCare; watching the performance of “Wrinkles,” I was proud that Keiro was a community partner for this production.

“Wrinkles” runs through March 13, 2011.

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