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BWW Review: THE WAVERLY GALLERY at The Alchemy Theatre

BWW Review: THE WAVERLY GALLERY at The Alchemy Theatre

THE WAVERLY GALLERY is nestled in front of a small hotel in Greenwich Village on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The proprietress, Gladys Green is a sweet, immaculate lady with a dazzling smile and a sunny, infectious demeanor. Widowed, and a retired attorney with too much energy to do nothing, Gladys found this small gallery near her home and has made it her own for these past 28 years.

Babs George, an extraordinarily gifted artist, endows Gladys with all the sincerity, grace and humor one would expect of this character. Kenneth Lonergan provides this award-winning play with a great deal of humor and not only in the text. Most of the humor here is born of human interaction and character development. We fall instantly in love with Gladys and our love builds throughout this incredibly beautiful play. Babs George is perfectly cast in this role and watching her work is always delightful, always satisfying.

Gladys adores her grandson, Daniel who also serves as the narrator of her journey and he tries to keep his personal feelings to a minimum. Daniel is brought to life by TV/Film/Musical Theatre artist Ruben Caballero in this, his live theatre debut. (Congratulations Ruben!) I suspect Caballero is thrilled to find himself cast with the finest of Austin's actors, and he is sensational in this role.

Daniel lives in Gladys' old apartment, behind her present place, and they have Wednesday night dinners with his mother, Ellen (Kim Jackson Davis) and step-father, Howard (Jon Michael Davis). Ellen seems to have picked up quite a few mannerisms from her mother and the role is a perfect showcase of Davis' extensive depth as a character actress. She is both funny and warm, frustrated and ultimately exhausted. And Davis is equally well-cast as Howard, the stalwart son-in-law doing his best to protect Gladys and keep everyone from falling apart. The scenes with the entire family are beautifully directed by Michael Cooper with everyone talking over one another as families do, none of them missing a beat.

Gladys befriends a struggling New England painter, Don Bowman, who has come to New York to pursue his dream. Luke Hill (last seen in Reverie Theatre's glorious OUTSIDE MULLINGAR), is terrific as the fish-out-of-water Bowman. A lonely, somewhat insecure but well-intentioned man who truly cares for Gladys and her family. Bowman provides insight into Gladys' health from an outside perspective, which helps the family piece together what is happening to Gladys.

Oh yes, I failed mention that Gladys is fighting a terrible battle of which she and her loved ones are unaware. Inside Gladys' brilliant mind lurks an insidious thief ready to rob her bit by bit of the greatest gift she has - the very core of her being. Gladys gradually exhibits signs of Alzheimer's, arguably the cruelest of diseases. Most of this play consists of Gladys living her normal, vibrant life while her family and friends see signals along the way that are concerning and yet, how much is just regular aging? And once the inevitable must be faced come the other questions: What exactly is happening in her mind? Does she recognize us or just pretend she does? Is she afraid? Angry? Resigned? Why didn't we know this was happening? Those questions never cease.

I was a bit hesitant about reviewing this play as my late mother suffered from Dementia and my father currently struggles with the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. The devastation it brings is overwhelming, heartbreaking, and I was concerned the play might be too painful. Instead, I found some comfort here in that the family acts and reacts to the thief in the exact same way as I have. Life imitates art imitates life...

I highly recommend The Alchemy Theatre's production of THE WAVERLY GALLERY through October 5th at the Mastrogeorge Theater, tickets available at THEALCHEMYTHEATRE.org


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