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Review: Collaboration Labs And Bevival Present Devorah Medwin's WOODEN NICKELS ~ A Life And Death Drama

Devorah Medwin's WOODEN NICKELS ~ A Life And Death Drama

By: Aug. 23, 2020
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Review: Collaboration Labs And Bevival Present Devorah Medwin's WOODEN NICKELS ~ A Life And Death Drama  Image

What defines a life worth living and what rights does a person have to end it if it is not?

These sobering and existential questions tear at the heart of families with members encountering aging and the potential of debilitating disease.

In WOODEN NICKELS, holistic healer and playwright Devorah Medwin has crafted a unique theatrical approach to exploring aging and dying with dignity. Medwin is also the Director of Development and Education at Bevival, an online platform that defines itself (being + revival) as "a mindset and a movement, dedicated to death literacy." True to this mission, her work-in-progress (featured as an interactive Zoom presentation on August 20th) bristles with the emotion of a family facing questions of filial fidelity and quality of life choices.

The delivery of the play is blessed and enhanced by the performances of four accomplished actresses, here associated with Arizona Actors Academy.

As Kiki (Niki Patton) contemplates the possibility of her inevitable decline, her daughters must wrestle with the implications of their mother's health and end-of-life choices. Each, in their own right, is compelled to examine their personal interests, motivations, and responsibilities.

As Kiki slips away from their conversation to make tea, Joanie (Jacque Arend) announces to her sisters that, after four years of living with and caring for mom, she must move on with her life and her new found partner...and, she needs their help. Kall (Alison Hammond), immersed in a divorce, and Eve (Debra Rich Gettleman), an attorney with a lifestyle that can't be compromised, battle to explain their inability to take over Joanie's assignment.

In an ironic twist, Kiki's state of mind is more rational and calculating than that exhibited by offspring who are trapped in the web of their own needs, biases and assumptions. While the daughters obsess over their discomfort with Kiki living alone, mom reveals that she has a plan that in turn sparks a new level of sororal angst.

Now, as the play's arc evolves toward a moment of shared understanding among the four, the mother-daughter exchanges peel away at layers of immensely relevant themes to any of us with aging parents: the distinctions between caregiving and caretaking; the criteria for and ethical issues associated with end-of-life decisions; the duties and responsibilities of family members during these challenging moments; the fear of impending loss of control and independence.

Managing the stresses of conversations like those among the three sisters regarding their duty of care requires sensitivity and egolessness. If there is one prescient line in the play that dictates this imperative it is Eve's epiphany: If you're going to be of help, "get rid of your sibling shit!"

It is in addressing all these complicated challenges that Medwin has written a play seamlessly laced with humor, poignancy, and insights.

Medwin adds innovation to her play with a clever segue from performance to clinical intervention. While the actors stay in character, they are joined by Barbara Coombs Lee, an expert in health policy and author of Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life's End. What ensues is an informative and compelling consultation and exploration of the issues at the center of the play. (This segment was then followed by an invitation to viewers to submit their own questions.)

Kudos to Niki Patton, Jacque Arend, Alison Hammond, and Debra Rich Gettleman for their moving and persuasive portrayals and for so effectively conveying the conflicting interests and tensions among the sisters and between the daughters and their mother. Given what a challenge it is to transmit such tones via Zoom, the accomplishment of the production was all the more impressive.

It is exciting to see theatre applied to such noble educational and sensitizing purposes. One hopes to see more such theatrical forays from Medwin.

Photo credit to Arizona Actors Academy: Clockwise, top left to right: Hammond, Arend, Gettleman, Lee, Patton

Arizona Actors Academy ~ 8535 E. Cactus Road, Scottsdale, AZ ~ 602-535-5472

Bevival ~


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