More than 5 Million American’s were living with Alzheimer’s in 2016 and the number keeps on growing. Every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with the disease. Alzheimer’s not only takes it’s toll on the person who has the disease, but it takes a devastating toll on the people who care for them. Mickele Hogan’s, Mourning the Living is a brave and fierce look about a caregiver. 15.9 million family and or friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Approximately two-thirds of all caregivers are women, and only 34 percent are age 65 or older. 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less. They sustain substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties, due to the stress.
Many people with Alzheimer’s have moments of total lucidity, which can send their caregiver down a rabbit hole.
Mourning The Living, introduces us to Kay (Jennifer Rau), as she is coming home from an amorous date with Jerry (Chris Bolan). Jerry is the principal at the school where Kay works. As Kay opens the door Marie (Mary Leggio) is there. She has been taking care of someone in the house. We soon learn it is David (Craig D’ Amico) Kay’s husband who was struck with early onset Alzheimer’s. Kay has been struggling to provide him the care he needs, but he barely recognizes her and turns violent. Only Maria manages to bring some of his life into focus. When Jerry finds out about David he wants to meet David’s and get his permission. Now the Kay is finding comfort, Marie feels a strong betrayal by Kay as she has been helping because her own husband recently died. We come to find out that Kay’s and David’s marriage was barely functioning before the disease. David was sexual and emotional distance long before. As Kay is about to have some kind of adult communication and warmth, David returns to his normal self and as a result her budding relationship with Jerry is destroyed. David reverts back into the illness as Kay becomes like the bird David gave her whose wings have been clipped and can no longer fly away. Kay and her husband are trapped into a never ending nightmare.
The cast is all excellent Ms. Leggio adds a dimension of humanity, along with some sexy moves and perfect comic timing. Mr. Bolan brings a complexed performance of a man who wants to do the right thing, but can’t. Caroline Aimetti as the drunken student who is Kay’s pride and joy, adds humor. We believe the flashes of in and out that Mr. Amico allows us to see. It is heartbreaking when he wakes up, if only for a brief second and tries to love his wife. Ms Rau performance is so completely layered and textured, that we long for her to have a happy ending. What is so wonderful about all this actors, is we believe this is real.
Director Alan Souza is also the director and teaching artist for the Broadway Dreams Foundation, so it makes sense that he would have a feeling for this play. He allows the humanity to rise with a tender touch. Together with his fabulous lighting designer Patrick Bakalli, the flashback scenes are cohesive and the whole show flows.
It is hard to believe that Ms.Hogan is a 23-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, who grew up in a family that founded Home Instead Senior Care, the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home caregiving. Ms. Hogan’s dialogue flows with heart, soul and an intelligence that seems much older and wiser. This is her first full-length play and it received its world premiere at the Thespis Theater Festival last year. She is a founding member of the Joust Theater Company and has served as an actor, writer, director and producer, but I hope she continues as a playwright because her work is impressive.
Mourning the Living: LifeWise Productions; The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 West 36th St. until April 22nd. 4/14 at 8PM; 4/15 at 2PM and 8PM; 4/16 at 3PM; 4/18 at 7PM; 4/19 at 8PM; 4/20 at 8PM; 4/21 at 8PM; 4/22 at 2PM and 8PM. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased online at m.ovationtix.com/pr/969851.