By Sandi Durell
Ah, the joys of family and the holidays as the Shealys gather for Christmas in the neat little home where Dotty’s memory (Dot played by Marjorie Johnson) has begun to fade and her eldest daughter Shelly (a woman on the verge, Sharon Washington), desperately attempts to control and direct Dot’s every movement in dealing with Dot’s regression into a world of forgetfulness – the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Childhood friend Jackie (the quietly sincere Finnerty Steeves) has arrived after a long hiatus; Jackie growing up in the black neighborhood in Philly as a child and considered an almost adopted daughter in this family. She is 40 years old, impregnated by a married man and has driven down from New York for solace and advice from her friend Shelly and is now caught in the web of Dot’s decline, Shelly’s rage, and her own unrequited love when, as a young girl, she and Shelly’s brother Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore) had a thing. Donnie is gay and now married to Adam (Colin Hanlon) as they arrive into the midst of the holiday madness that awaits them. Shelly’s younger sister Averie (Libya V. Pugh) comes on loud and strong as a larger than life character who had a singing career that faded, and is living in the basement of the family home.
The dialogue is fast, furious, quick-witted and often hilarious in this latest offering from Colman Domingo at the Vineyard Theatre as Shelly, in hysterical rant mode, attempts to bring her siblings into the fray to relieve her of the burden, financially and emotionally, of caring for their fading mother and coming to grips with how. The Shealys can get it on when the mood is right.
Funny interludes abound when Donnie, persuaded by Adam to join him in a juice cleanse, prompted by Donnie’s gaining a few pounds, is discovered munching away in the kitchen in the middle of the night by Adam who smells his breath to find chicken and cookies! An argument ensues as Dot enters and playfully says “What in the world are you gays doing now? Why can’t you just put on chaps and call it a day? . . . Come on now, if you gonna be gay, BE GAY!!!”
There are plenty of cliché and politically correct and incorrect references when it comes to gay, the “n” word and waking up 40, not married, etc. but the bottom line is the heart-breaking sadness that comes to bare in Act 2 of watching a loved one sinking into the darkness of Alzheimer’s as Dot loses more and more cognitive senses, and the unbearable pain and anguish it brings. Domingo’s script captures the love and confusion; Marjorie Johnson clearly defines the in and out of the mental instability that ensues.
Additional cast member Michael Rosen plays Fidel, the gentle illegal caretaker from Kazakhstan.
The cast is finely tuned by the extremely sensitive and alert direction by Susan Stroman. Allen Moyer has arranged a pleasing, colorful design in the kitchen and again in the living room of the Shealy home brought to life by lighting designer Ben Stanton.
Dot – www.VineyardTheatre.org 108 East 15 Street, NYC,
212 392-6396, thru March 13th running time 2 hrs. 15 min.
*Photos: Carol Rosegg