Written by Mickele Hogan
Directed by Alan Souza
Though the some threads of its story could use more development, Mickele Hogan’s trim, well-constructed dramedy manages to steer clear of disease-of-the-week movie clichés in favor of a more ambiguous, believable examination of the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s.
David(Craig D’ Amico) still lives with his vivacious wife Kay (Jennifer Rau), but his neurodegenerative disorder has progressed to the point where they no longer have much of a relationship. Kindly neighbor Marie, (Mary Leggio) knows just how to talk to David, and for the time being he can manage a few simple tasks. But deep down, Kay knows the day will eventually come when she will have to put her husband in a facility. Burdened as she is by this situation, Kay is also getting on with her own life. She enjoys her work as a teacher, and has been out on a few dates with Jerry (Chris Bolan), a high school principal who radiates decency and is clearly nuts about Kay. The relationship seems to be going well, but when Jerry finds out about David, he naturally has some misgivings. Kay assures him that her husband has already “left”, but Jerry isn’t easily convinced, especially when David’s occasional bouts of lucidity make it hard to get a read on his condition. Kay anxiously endeavors to somehow make the whole thing work, but the harder she struggles to hold on to both men, the more they both slip from her grasp. As she musters the courage to face the inevitable, Kay flashes back to a time when she and David, already trapped in a difficult marriage, first began to grappling with his disease.
Hogan’s dialogue has an agreeable flow to it, and there are welcome touches of humor that keep the evening from becoming lugubrious. Her writing is well served by a lively cast, which also includes Caroline Aimetti in a brief but delightful turn as one of Kay’s students. The show’s only sticking point is the character of David, who is consistently dour and prone to tantrums. Some of his behavior’s understandable: increased irritability is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. Yet even in the flashbacks, Director Alan Souza shows us a rushed, preoccupied David. The show’s stark conclusion is affecting nonetheless. It could be more so if we were shown a clearer glimpse of what Kay and David once had when he was fully present, and what they lost when he went away.
MOURNING THE LIVING continues through April 22 at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 West 36th St, New York, New York. Tickets: ovationtix.com/pr/969851.