A FINAL TOAST World Premiere to be Presented at Chain Theatre in May

The production will run May 10 to 26 at Chain Theatre.

By: Apr. 01, 2024
A FINAL TOAST World Premiere to be Presented at Chain Theatre in May
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Jana Robbins, the well-known Broadway actress and producer, plays a powerful Jewish mother with memory problems in "A Final Toast" by Michele A Miller.  The play explores the complex misunderstandings, secrets, and tensions in families when daughters must take charge of mothers who are entering dementia.  Ms. Miller is known for plays and screenplays which disarm dark subjects with comedy.  Renaissance Now Theatre & Film, a producer of new works, films and innovative interpretations of classics, will present the play's world premiere run May 10 to 26 at Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor.  The four-character play also features Jolie Curtsinger, Diane J Findlay and Sachi ParkerKathy Curtiss directs.

"A Final Toast" takes us into the complex, intertwined lives of two older women who are helped by their adult daughters to clear out their homes before moving to a Senior Living Center. Blanche (Jana Robbins), a vibrant, resilient and domineering secular Jewish woman is in an early stage of dementia.  She must rely on her adult daughter, Ella (Jolie Curtsinger), to dispose of her house and estate.  Ella is overmatched by her powerful mother, and must engage Alice (Sachi Parker), a professional home organizer of Irish heritage, to uncurl Blanche's powerful fingers from her household curios and other possessions.  The wrinkle is that Alice's mother Carol (Diane J Findlay) is heading for the same senior living facility as Blanche.  Once in their new home, with the pandemic raging, the two elderly women find themselves housed in proximity to each other.  At the forceful initiative of Blanche, they become dear friends, only to uncover an inauspicious encounter they had years before--one with longstanding consequences for their future lives, their relationships, their families and ultimately each other. It's revealed that prejudice has infected both families, but it's realized that long-standing hurts, betrayals, and accusations can be neutralized with humor and deep, abiding love.

The characters are complex and raise universal questions of identity and assimilation, family and tradition, survival and resilience, cultural identity and belonging, role reversal and caregiving.  The families confront unresolved issues from the past as they navigate the challenges of dementia, but Blanche and Ella grapple especially with the significance of family belongings within the context of their Jewish identity. Themes of responsibility and the duty to honor parents' legacy also emerge.

Director Kathy Curtiss writes, "In working with several of Michele's works over the last two years, I have found she has a gift, perhaps born of her Jewish heritage, in coping with the irony in dark subjects with a poignant humor and resilience." 

Earlier drafts of the play had public readings by The Dramatist Guild, New Perspectives Theatre, Round the Bend Theatre and Bedford Playhouse.  It was a finalist in seven national playwrighting competitions.

 Costume Designer is Peter Fogel.  Projection and sound designer is Rychard Curtiss. Set designer is Maya Alschuler-Pierce.  Lighting designer is Spenser Giles. Voice/Dialog Coach is Steven Rimke.  Stage manager is Gabby Macallister.

Jonathan Slaff




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