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The Waverly Gallery is Chilling Look at Dementia

The Waverly Gallery is Chilling Look at Dementia

”I tried to get the details right because that’s what you remember when you think of something. So I tried like hell to get them the way they are.”

Elaine May

Elaine May Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Dealing with a loved one who has dementia is hard. You watch them fade away day after day as the people they were disappear. Elaine May, who last appeared on Broadway 52 years ago, shows she has not lost that magic she had with Mike Nicholas. At 86, May touches our hearts, holds us captive, and slowly disintegrates before our eyes in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery.

Joan Allen, Elaine May

Joan Allen, Elaine May Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Dealing with a loved one who has dementia is hard. You watch them fade away day after day as the people they were disappear. Elaine May, who last appeared on Broadway 52 years ago, shows she has not lost that magic she had with Mike Nicholas. At 86, May touches our hearts, holds us captive, and slowly disintegrates before our eyes in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery. She loves her mother, but is frustrated, as is her husband, who has his own family troubles.

Michael Cera, Lucas Hedges, Elaine May

Michael Cera, Lucas Hedges, Elaine May Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

The gallery affords the family some form of escape, especially when Don (Michael Cera), a broke and untalented artist from Massachusetts arrives at the gallery. He is just as chatty as Gladys.

David Cromer

David Cromer Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Gladys has been ringing Daniel’s doorbell at all hours of the night. Daniel calls his mother to come take her. As they are about to leave, Daniel tells his mother that he emphatically loves her. We know he sees this happening all over again with his mother. Gladys knows she has lost her battle and does not want to leave.

As sad as this play is, it is also funny, for in deep pain comes humor. Laughter here is a shield. Lonergan wrote this play in 2000, but the show is set in late 1989-1981. This play is a memory play in more ways than one. Dialogue overlaps and at times it seems as if everyone is shattering like shards of glass.

The whole cast is excellent, but it is Elaine May’s performance that is mesmerizing and deeply layered, but at the same time, contained. She is the ghost of the future and it is chilling.

Lila Neugebauer’s direction keeps this show moving. David Zinn’s sets, Tan Yarden’s projections, and Brian MacDevitt’s lighting let us know where we are.

As Glady’s mind fragments, it is hard to not wonder if we are not looking into a crystal ball at our own future. Frightening!

The Waverly Gallery: Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St. until Jan. 27th.

Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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