When Dotty is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, daughter Shelly all but moves into the family home in West Philadelphia to care for her, despite the fact that she has a young son of her own at home, and a younger sister Averie living in her basement, having recently fallen from her short bout with celebrity that came with a viral YouTube video. Son Donnie and his husband Adam come home for the holidays from their busy life in NYC, and are dealing with a rough patch in their marriage. Neighbor Jackie also comes home from NYC, single, 40, pregnant, and still carrying a torch for her ex, Donnie. Rounding out this motley crew is Kazakhstani immigrant Fidel, whom Shelly has hired to help care for Dotty a few days a week. Shelly insists that the siblings make some plans about their mother's care, but they're in denial about the severity of the situation, until they see it for themselves.
|the Shealy family gathers in the living room|
(photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
|Do (Cynthia Jones-Taylor), Shelly (Yvette Ganier), and|
Jackie (Anna Letts Lakin, photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
Scenic designer Andrea Heilman has created not one but two realistic and lived in sets. I missed the intermission scene change, but I gather that the massive set was rotated - one side is a kitchen so welcoming I wanted to make myself a cup of coffee and pull up a stool at the island, and the other is a warm and cozy living room with a huge decorate Christmas tree. Whether the kitchen in Act I or the living room in Act II, there is a sense of things unseen (but sometimes heard) going on in the other room. The storytelling continues even through the scene transitions as actors move through the space in character, doing chores or getting a snack.
If you would like a taste of real-life family drama this holiday season, that feels familiar but is likely more entertaining than your own, spend a few hours with the Shealy family in West Philly via downtown St. Paul (continuing through January 7).
*You can read about all of the holiday shows I've seen here.
**Fans of the Walking Dead franchise take note: this is not your only chance to see a play written by a zombie-killing actor. The play Familiar written by The Walking Dead's Michonne, Denai Gurira, will be produced at the Guthrie next year.