SUN CITY CENTER — Doug saunters onto the scene with a rose for the pretty widow who just moved back to the retirement community.
He is casually dressed in pleated khaki shorts, calf-high socks and white sneakers. The ladies think he's handsome but several are leery, for good reason.
When they're out of earshot, he tells his buddies:
"You don't have to marry them. Just enjoy the benefits," he says, bragging about his dates who cook for him, suggesting that's not all they do. "I have to tell you, guys, there is a glut of women on the market."
Doug is the resident cad in the Pelican Players' musical production called Sex After 60?
Tongues are wagging in Sun City Center and tickets are selling fast for the musical, which runs Wednesday and Thursday.
A few weeks ago, the director needed to amend the fliers by adding, "A Spoof on Retirement Living" to reassure residents this wasn't a risque stage show.
To single seniors who speak of rocky dating experiences, it might feel like a page from their lives.
While Sex After 60? is light on the sex (there really are no sex scenes), it's heavy on the deeper dating and relationship issues faced by retirees, though handled with plenty of humor.
"Yes, there are nuances. It's for adults," said director Carlyn Postle, 65. While she feels the community's growing number of baby boomers might be more comfortable with the topic than their parents, the musical remains tasteful.
"I want to keep it modernish," she said. "But I don't want it to get bawdy. That's not my generation."
Though a comedy, the musical grapples with serious themes. A central one: Women outlive and, therefore, outnumber men. The result can be the occasional Casanova like Doug who takes advantage of desperate women seeking to remarry or find a companion.
To edge out their competition for an available bachelor, some women offer their cooking and cleaning services.
"Fortunately, I'm different from my character," said Jim Klamer, the actor who portrays Doug.
It wasn't always the case.
Not too long ago, Klamer, 65, found himself stringing women along. Divorced 20 years ago, more recently he was looking for companionship and sex but not a long-term commitment.
"I was struck after I took the part of how much I was reminded of myself," Klamer said.
He loves to cook and does his own cleaning, but the women filled other gaps in his life. Like Doug in the musical, he found plenty willing to spend time with him. But they would bring up marriage quickly.
"They would end up getting hurt, even though I always stayed friends with them," he said.
He realizes now, he says, that he suffered from low self-esteem and the fear that he was not capable of really loving a woman.
"I sometimes think when a man, even married men, have such low self-esteem, every time they make it with another woman, it's telling themselves, 'I do have some worth. I am wanted,' " he said.
Four years ago, he met a woman he considers the love of his life. She died last year. After that, his dating attempts left him feeling empty. He no longer dates but attends social functions with several close friends.
"Yes, there are times when I get lonely," Klamer said, "but, believe me, it's a lot more comfortable being happily single than being unhappily married."
Other male characters chide Doug for his male chauvinism. The musical pokes fun at a man who, in need of full-time care, marries his nurse.
In real life, actor Rose Ostrander empathizes with women seeking a companion amid stiff competition. She and her husband have been married for 55 years. But she once ran a grief support group for widows.
"The biggest problem a widow has is that she doesn't know how to do what her husband always had done, like change oil in the car," she said. "Not only do they miss the companionship, they do miss that, but also what he has taken care of."
Ostrander plays several characters in the musical who are behind a scheme to catch Doug in his own game.
But amid the humor, one of her characters, a widow, provides one of the musical's most poignant moments when she sings, "I never thought I'd be growing old alone."
Married cast members say they've seen single friends find new partners or spouses through mutual friends, one of the community's churches, clubs or volunteer activities.
But they've also noticed the flurry of female attention around any new bachelor on the scene.
The imbalance, Becky Auld said, causes problems.
Auld, 73, is the secretary and treasurer of the Singles Social Dance Club. Her husband died 20 years ago. She has grown pretty independent, and some of the men she has dated can't handle that. They expect her to cater to them.
They've grown spoiled, she said. They know there are plenty of women out there who will.
"I wouldn't want to fight over anybody," she said. "If you meet anyone, the women cluster around. I just fade out of the picture. I'm not a real competitive person, and if I have to fight for someone, I'm not interested."
She calls some women the "casserole brigade." When a bachelor moves into town or becomes single, women start taking cooked meals to his house to curry favor, she said. Sometimes they try their luck even when a man is still attached.
"If I'm dating someone, right in front of you they put on a performance," she said. "They hang on (his ) every word and act like they don't see anyone else in the room."
The men eat it up, she says. Even at the dances, single men now wait for the women to ask them to dance.
"That's kind of difficult for someone my age because you're used to the men asking you to dance," she said.
Some of her dates balked at paying for dinner. One of them ordered a single entree and tried to split it with her.
The men come on very strong. Some expect sex on the first date.
"I said, 'Wait a minute. I don't even know you,' " she said. "But their attitude is if you're not willing, someone out there is."
Men are suspicious when she tells them she's not interested in getting remarried. Like some retirees, she would consider living with someone but not marrying because of the complexity of mixing finances and losing her late husband's benefits.
She just wants some quality company.
"It would be nice to have somebody to go places with, but it would have to be somebody who cared for me and not just somebody to say you have somebody," she said.
Until then, like Klamer, she'd rather stay single.
In the musical at least, the ladies' man gets his comeuppance.
"I like to see it at the end, even though it's (my character)," Klamer said. "The ladies say, 'We've had it up to here.' And they do give it to Doug, and he's got it coming."
Saundra Amrhein can be reached at [email protected] or 661-2441.