Director Susan Stroman brought Colman Domingo’s Dot to the Vineyard Theatre stage with an expertise that I find admirable. Dot offers social commentary on a family’s struggle with disease, midlife crisis, gay issues, unrequited love, a modern exploration into African American middle class family and even spoke to immigration issues.
The scene opens in modern day West Philadelphia within the kitchen of the Shealy house. Scenic Designer Allen Moyer created a very clever stage with a projector overlaying the brownstone the family resided in, opening up to a superbly made kitchen complete with a working stove and later living room set with a beautiful Christmas tree. The house has an outdated 1970s-esque feel and both Moyer, Sound Designer Tom Morse and Lighting Designer Ben Stanton worked well together in bringing the set to life for the cast.
Mrs. Shealy, or Dotty, to those who know her well, is played by Marjorie Johnson. Johnson took into consideration just how Alzheimer’s and its internal struggle can personify. She created an affable, relatable and captivating character that pulled the audience in from her first line.
Dotty’s eldest, Shelly (Sharon Washington) is her main caretaker. Shelly’s internal and external battle with caring for a mother that is slowly losing her memories was crafted and woven into the story. Washington delivered this internal dialogue with hilarity.
Shelly’s gay brother, Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore) and his husband Adam (Colin Hanlon) enter the house for the holidays and it only increases the heightened familial tension over the change in their mother.
Moore personifies the child-like strife we all seem to face when we realize that our parents can indeed grow older and fade from us. Meanwhile, Hanlon brings the tensions of marriage to the surface. Both characters enhance the seriousness as well as the amusement of the play.
On the other hand, Jackie (Finnerty Steeves) is the next door neighbor who’s just returned from New York City. Steeves is facing quite the midlife crisis while still struggling to accept that her high school sweetheart, Donnie, is gay. Trust me, this only added more laughter.
The youngest sibling, Averie (Libya V. Pugh) was all loud, proud, and brought an inner city flair to the stage. An aspiring artist with some YouTube success, Pugh pulled the commentary into the realm of consistent comic relief from the serious nature of Alzheimer’s.
Fidel (Michael Rosen), the aid for Dotty, is an immigrant from Kazakhstan who easily blended with the cast and brought more light to life for immigrants in our country and their difficulty with assimilation.
Overall, Dot is compelling, heartfelt and highly entertaining. The chemistry of the cast is contagious and with so much going on in our country today we sometimes forget about family and how difficult growing older can be and just how much intersection we face in our daily lives. Wonderfully written and expertly performed, Dot is absolutely worth a visit to the theatre.
Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Carol Rosegg