The Home News Tribune recently featured George Street's bus trips from the Monroe area. The journalist (Laurie Granieri) expertly captures the personalities of the matinee crowd, if I must say.
Gold and 34 other women from active adult communities around Monroe Township are headed to a Thursday matinee of the kooky monster-mash musical "The Toxic Avenger." They sit in pairs aboard a chartered bus bound for New Brunswick's George Street Playhouse.
Some are gussied up for the occasion in low heels, leather coats and matching jewelry; others choose sensible shoes with Velcro fasteners, windbreakers and loose-fitting athletic pants.
Gold is in the former category: lipstick, a lightly made-up face and short blond hair curling softly toward her cheekbones.
Gold isn't sure she'll like the show. But now that Mabel Metz has told her the well-received musical is moving off-Broadway, Gold's willing to give it a chance.
"A couple friends who saw it said it isn't good, but now I can go with an open mind and enjoy it," Gold says.
"I'm an old-time New Yorker," Metz adds. "I go with an open mind. Not everyone has the same taste."
Metz, Gold and the rest are participating in George Street Playhouse's Monroe Township Bus Package. For $52, residents of certain active adult communities receive round-trip transport and a ticket to a Thursday matinee. The theater offers the service for $49 on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings during previews.
Michelle Bergamo, George Street's marketing and group sales associate, is stationed up front with a list of participants' names. She has coordinated the program since its inception five years ago. Today Bergamo is overseeing four pick-ups at Clearbrook, Greenbriar at Whittingham, Concordia and Rossmoor. She assures Shirley Horowitz that the musical is "silly."
Horowitz is pleased.
"Silly is good," she says. Horowitz steers the conversation to another subject.
"Let's get personal," she says to Bergamo. "How's the wedding?" Horowitz has participated in the Monroe Township Bus Package for three years, and she's gotten to know Bergamo, as have the other ladies.
"It's coming," Bergamo replies.
"You inviting all of George Street?" Horowitz asks.
They laugh. Bergamo says she and her fiance are prepared for the big day.
She corrects herself: "I should say I am."
"Most of 'em don't (help with planning)," Sylvia Wouk assures Bergamo. "You're probably better off doing it yourself."
The bus takes roughly 30 minutes to wind its way from the leafy gated communities of Monroe Township to downtown New Brunswick. The women, most of whom are George Street subscribers — nonsubscribers from participating active adult communities may sign up for the package as long as there's space on the bus — say they enjoy the trips because, as Irene Kent puts is, "someone else is doing the driving . . . I'd do a lot more theater, symphony, if they offered a bus."
Many women say they no longer travel into Manhattan for cultural events and would not attend shows at George Street if it were not for the bus package; some refuse to drive at night.
Fran Berger used to drive herself to George Street, but now that she has a brace on her leg, she worries about finding convenient parking in New Brunswick.
"We're getting old, we can't do certain things," she says. "I love theater; this helps me get there."
Berger used to live in Brooklyn, N.Y. She says she and her husband, Dan, attended Broadway shows once a month. Dan died 14 years ago.
"We saw everything worth seeing," Berger says.
Later on, the Bergers moved to Convent Station, where Fran commuted into the city to work as an office manager for a handbag designer. Berger keeps a lipstick-red crocodile bag on her lap. It matches her manicure and her earrings.
Berger says for many years she couldn't imagine retiring.
"I said, "What do you do when you're retired?' " Berger recalls. "A woman said, "You take one day at a time.' "
Attending the theater allows Berger to do just that.
"Every day I try to do something," she says.
Later, a reporter asks Gold if she can telephone her the next day to ask about the show. Gold smiles and says: "We'll try to fit you into our schedule."