by: Sandi Durell
This would surely be one of the most unlikely topics about which a musical could be conceived. It’s difficult as an audience member when presented as a drama piece. So hats off to the Transport Group in presenting the book and lyrics by Sara Cooper and music by Zach Redler at the Duke on 42nd Street. This 90 minute production tells the story of a 31 year old daughter who moves back in with her mother as caretaker, when Mother exhibits the signs of early onset Alzheimer’s.
I must say that a little of the edge is removed when, at times, the topic can be made lively with some humor thrown in and with outstanding performances by Catherine Cox as “Mother” and Leslie Kritzer as “Daughter,” directed by Joe Calarco.
The content of feelings and emotions are mostly sung as the Brooklyn Jewish Mother begins her kvetching in a white hospital gown wondering why she’s being asked “Who’s the President of the United States?” over and over again, finding herself unable to answer. The players speak and sing to the audience, engaging them in their lives – a high intensity mother/daughter relationship that talks of a hated husband but loved father; a young girl who is working on finding a mate on Match.com (“Single Jewish Female Seeks Man”), as we witness the downward spiraling of a woman suffering this disease.
Cox seems to push her way through with an over-the-top Jewish accent and a big head of steam but she is a good actress; Kritzer, as always, is a delight to listen to on a stage, her singing voice one of her biggest assets. There are a lot of emotions flying around as all the stories get told and I guess none to real completion, other than the fact that this disease doesn’t get better.
The most poignant of the songs is “I’m Her Apple” (I’m her apple, she’s my tree. . .I’m made out of her but she’s not made out of me”); neary a dry eye after that one.
The scenic design by Brian Prather is a see-through scrim on which are hung pictures and some empty frames; as reality and memories fade the photos are just not present – more emphasized when Chris Lee’s lighting spots a photo and it suddenly disappears. How frightening to feel the reality of what it’s like for each – the victim and the caretaker.
*Photo by Carol Rosegg
The Memory Show thru May 18th. www.duke42.org.