Cranstonian theatre veteran, Lynne Collinson, creative director for WomensWork Theatre Collaborative, describes the newly formed organization as a vehicle “to promote artistic opportunities for woman of all ages…with a major focus to provide leadership roles – on and off stage – for women over the age of forty.”
“There just aren’t enough plays for mature women actresses,” Collinson said, listing a dozen “Collaborative Founding Mothers” in her program for her second production, Julie Jensen’s moving play about caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s: “Last Lists of My Mad Mother.” The one-act, three-character play is only 50 minutes long, but not a second is wasted in presenting an honest, heart-wrenching and at times humorous look at not only the disease but how it affects those closest to their aging parent.
Dot (Margaret Melozzi) cares for her mother, avoiding putting her in “the bin,” and sacrificing her own life to care for her. And it isn’t easy. At times, the former teacher is lucid, repeating grammatical lessons, making lists and recalling past events. But more often than not she slips into moments of repetitive language and loss of memory and comprehension. Those moments are dealt with by her daughter with love, frustration, anxiety, black humor and anger.
Meanwhile, Ma’s other daughter (Carol A. Schlink), presumably living a distance away, has emotionally distanced herself, calling frequently to offer advice and tell her sister of her busy life and family activities.
So many of us will relate to Dot or her sister, having experienced one of their roles for an ailing parent, to make this play very personal.
Melozzi perfectly shows us the ambiguity in caring for her mother. There is no question that she loves her mother enough to sacrifice her own life at great personal expense. And yet there are moments when she wishes she were free of the burden, gets completely frustrated, and even tries to reason with a person who is incapable of reasoning.
Paula Faber, an attractive, “mature,” talented actress, has played many roles in her career, but her portrayal of this strong-minded soul crippled by this unfair disease is by far her best. Her hair grayed, glasses that make her sad eyes larger, clothes that make her seem emaciated, and body language that demonstrates a failing health all accompany a verbal portrayal of a person with Alzheimer’s that is so realistic you would not recognize the actress if you saw her on the street.
Bravo to director Lynne Collinson for the selection of these three outstanding women who become so emotionally attached to their characters that they bring tears to the eyes of audience members and themselves.
I suggested to Collinson that this is a play that deserves a longer run and should be taken “on the road.” She told me that the plan for WomensWork was to start slowly, build an audience, and discover more good plays for women. WomensWork is well on its way to becoming a force for quality theatre in Rhode Island.
“Last Lists of My Mad Mother” plays through November 3 at Artists’ Exchange, 50 Rolfe St. in Cranston. Seating is limited, so call today at 490-9475 or go online at artists-exchange.org.