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Posts Tagged Christmas

The Everyday Emergency

In 2010, Park Square produced Painting Churches, Tina Howe’s play about a woman who returns home to paint and help her parents. The father’s memory has begun to fail, and in its place are snatches of Irish and American poems. In the program for that production, I wrote about Mary Pipher’s book Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders, in which the author describes how we have no frame of reference for dealing with those who are growing old. She writes, “We have few road maps to help us navigate the new lands [of aging].” In Howe’s play, the couple are relocating to Cape Cod from Boston’s Beacon Hill (current home to John Kerry, former home to Carly Simon, Ted Kennedy, and Uma Thurman). The Churches had the privilege to confront aging with substantial resources, and that’s what makes Colman Domingo’s play feel so vital.

Donnie and Shelly in the kitchen

Ricardo Beaird as Donnie and Yvette Ganier as older sister Shelly in DOT (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

In 2010, I did not note that I knew of Pipher’s book because it was on my family’s bookshelf, alongside Eldercare for Dummies. As Pipher points out, and as anyone knows who has experienced that traumatic instant when a loved one turns to you and asks, “Who are you?” we’re all dummies when it comes to eldercare. (If you prefer, there’s an Idiot’s Guide.) As Dot suggests, caring for prior generations is a nearly inescapable experience, and some who do escape it may incite resentment and anxiety in other family members – hence Shelly’s exasperation.

 

Just as in the play, families debate whether to care for aging loved ones in-home (and whose home) or to pursue other accommodations (“the home”). The stress of these conversations (or negotiations, or outright conflict) is compounded because most families make these decisions with highly constrained finances. Tina Howe’s play is a moving portrait of a family bonding. Domingo’s play is an unnerving mirror. Shelly feels that “every day is an emergency,” and for so many of us who have been in the position of the Shealy children, we may feel that way, too. As we care for the aging and ailing, every second risks a trauma, and every day offers an emergency. We may judge Shelly for the measures she takes to give herself a break, but we can understand her.

From Oedipus to King Lear, from A Streetcar Named Desire to August: Osage County, the family reunion has been a major impetus in Western drama, as far-flung family are forced home to confront crises. And crises, according to Pipher, “make everyone more who they really are.” At least Blanche DuBois knew not to head to the Kowalskis’ just in time for Christmas: holiday traditions and expectations – not to mention sheer numbers of people – can trouble even the most delicately balanced families. But Dot is not a tragedy, and neither is aging, and it’s no surprise the Shealys’ emergency ebbs when the family try to understand one another.

 


Dotty and Jackie on the livingroom sofa with Christmas tree

Cynthia Jones-Taylor as Dotty with Anna Lakin as close family friend Jackie (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Hot off its hit New York run, Dot runs through January 7, 2018 on the Proscenium Stage at Park Square Theatre.

LEARN MORE / GET TICKETS »

Dot the Halls!

Stoke the fire, tinsel the tree, “enhance” your eggnog – do whatever you do to make yourself comfortable this holiday season, for you know just how stressful this time of the year can be!

That angst comes in many shapes and forms, from last-minute gift shopping to navigating those inevitably disparate political views. Sometimes, however, the biggest cause of anxiety isn’t something that can be whisked away with the tree and wrapping, but something that fundamentally tests the love and hope of the season.

Currently running at Park Square is a play called Dot, by Colman Domingo, that explores those trials and tribulations.

In the days leading up to Christmas, one West Philadelphia family is rocked by the fact that their mother’s health is rapidly decling due to Alzheimer’s. All around age forty, the children are often too wrapped up in their own mid-life crises to face the severity of the situation, all too willing to snipe at each other’s own shortcomings. Can the family push past these petty insecurities to confront the the reality of losing their mother?

Like I was saying before, the type of stress that this must cause on the family isn’t going to go away with the coming of a new year and by the end of the play, the siblings realize this. That they themselves are the only support system they have to rely on. No matter the differences, the bond of family is too powerful to ignore.

That then, is where those pillars of the season – love, joy and hope – come into play.

For all of it’s drama, Dot is extremely heartwarming and often down-right hilarious. Any one with siblings or numerous relatives can attest to the absurdity that ensues when so many loud personalities share the same living room. Either your join the madness or sneak away to the kitchen and gorge yourself on leftovers. However you cope, you still appreciate those that you call family, however different they may be from yourself.

This is why Dot is such a great play for Christmas-time and why I would love to see it done often in as many theaters as possible. Not only do the holiday themes run deep, but it’s a new play, so you’re able to relate to the work in a way that more closely resembles your own world than that of say, another telling of Victorian-era A Christmas Carol.

Therefore, treat yourself this season and witness the tornado of tinsel and tears that is Dot and get in touch with those traditions that make you warm and fuzzy inside. Or is that the eggnog your sipping?

Tickets and more information HERE 

 

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