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BWW Review: A Lesson Learned with DOT at Brookfield Theatre

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Happy Holidays to all and don't forget to love each other.

BWW Review: A Lesson Learned with DOT at Brookfield Theatre

Not every Christmas is a happy one- that's just the reality of growing up- but that doesn't mean that the holiday season can't still be special. Dot, by Colman Domingo, is a prime example that you must make the most of every moment you can because you never know when those moments will run out. This lesson rang loud and true on stage at the Brookfield Theater during their production of Dot, under the direction of Beth Young. Young's faithfulness to the heart of the play shone bright through the actors to create an impactful, and at times emotionally overwhelming, experience.

Centered around Dot Shealy, meticulously crafted by Loretta Fedrick, Dot chronicles the common hardship that is Alzheimer's. From the way Fedrick paused the think about what she wanted to say next, to the way her emotions changed from moment to moment impressed upon the audience a woman frustrated and misunderstood as she tries to navigate the failings of her own mind. The raw interactions between her and her daughter, Shelly (Kendall Driffin), were both relatable and heartbreaking, as it is hard to imagine oneself reacting any differently were we in their shoes. "I've seen this happen before," a woman in the audience, who works around people with Alzheimer's, commented to me during intermission, "I've heard these exact conversations before." Both a testament to the script and the performers, to be able to faithfully recreate living conversations on a stage requires a commitment to and understanding of these characters: An attribute none clearer than in Driffin's portrayal of the child on the front lines of caring for a parent.

Being the only child to see the progression of Alzheimer's in real time, it's hard to fault Shelly for her frustrations and short temper with Dottie and own her siblings. Fortunately, we find her foil in Rick Calvo's, Fidel. An immigrant from Kazakhstan, Fidel is Dottie's part time caregiver. His patience and understanding with Dottie is a refreshing change from the frustration of Shelly, and it reminds the audience that love and compassion are essential in the treatment of persons with Alzheimer's and other mental or intellectual disabilities. It becomes clear through conversations with Fidel that Dottie is aware of what is happening to her, a discovery for the audience that makes you feel for Dottie even more.

The Christmas season at Dottie's house continues to grow more complicated as we see the coming together of the siblings, Shelly, Donnie (Jeramie Gladman), and Averie (Dania Fedrick), presumably for the first time in many years. Donnie brings his husband, Adam (Joseph "Jojo" DeVellis), where they have to balance their failing marriage with keeping up appearances on top of everything else, while Averie struggles to break into the celebrity world after a brief stint with fame in recent years. Lastly, Jackie (Lucy Manos), a family friend with a secret of her own, fills out the cast with a genuine, child-like spirit dealing with adult issues and responsibilities. With her own history with Donnie, her awkwardness is a unique source of tension and comedy.

With so many personalities in one room, there was always a comment made that would give the audience reprieve from the heaviness of mental decline to witness the pure chaos that is sibling drama. Despite the reprieve, Domingo's script seamlessly brings us back to reality with another break in Dottie's consciousness; from mentioning Jackie's late parents- believing they were still alive in her mind- to imagining Adam as her late husband.

Christmas Eve arrives and Dottie, with Fidel's help, gives all of her children a gift with the intention of imparting some wisdom and, hopefully, encouraging her children to settle their differences and come together. The climax of the show is not one I wish to spoil- as I feel it would rob a prospective audience member from a truly bittersweet experience that this moving work of art so delicately built towards. I will, however, tease the moment by personally confirming the authenticity of the director's staging and Gladman's portrayal of someone going through that experience.

In a production as emotional and raw as this, it's hard to criticize- as reviewers and critics are oft encouraged to do- the cast or crew for any particular issues that may have arisen. Live theater, by nature, is imperfect. That is not a bad thing. If I had to nit-pick something in this beautiful work, it would be pacing. In a very conversation heavy script- think about shows like Twelve Angry Men­- it is difficult to balance speaking slow enough to be heard, yet fast enough to keep the audience's attention, especially when you take into consideration a character with Alzheimer's, where a slower speech pattern is integral to an actor's portrayal. There were times when the pacing was strong and the audience was along for the ride, but there were also times when the show began to drag, and the audience began to feel how long this scene had been going on. A delicate balance that any actor will struggle to strike.

By the end of the night, however, the power of the script, the faithfulness of the direction, and the commitment of the cast won out, and the audience left with newfound love and patience in their hearts- a perfect sensation as we enter the holiday season. Happy Holidays to all and don't forget to love each other.


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