Dotty Shealy is a middle-class widow living alone in a home in West Philadelphia in the play, DOT, at New York’s Vineyard Theatre.
Her single daughter, Shelly, often stays over because Dotty has been experiencing symptoms of dementia. Although Shelly, a lawyer, has a brother (a self-involved gay writer who is having marital issues) and a sister (a self-involved ‘diva’ seeking internet fame), she bears all the financial and emotional burden of taking care of their mother.
When everyone gathers in Dotty’s house for the Christmas holidays, Shelly is determined to unburden herself to brother Donnie and sister Averie, and ask for their help. Donnie, however, can’t focus on mom’s problems when he’s fighting with husband Adam about their lack of intimacy. Averie, in the meantime, is oblivious to anyone’s situation but her own.
As her ‘kids’ maniacally swirl around her with their own issues, Dotty almost seems level-headed, even when she’s recalling her courtship with their deceased father as if he were still in the room with her. Fidel, Dotty’s gentle home-care companion from Kazakhstan (played by adorable Michael Rosen), is the only one who understands and empathizes with her, providing a sense of normalcy.
The seven cast members are superb, seamlessly bouncing between their personal crises and the family dynamic.
My favorites were Libya V. Pugh, who comedically and dramatically plays Dotty’s daughter, Averie, as well as Marjorie Johnson, whose Dotty is clever, daft, endearing and melancholy. It can’t be easy playing someone going in and out of lucidity, but Marjorie nails the roll. I also enjoyed watching Finnerty Steeves, who plays Jackie, the Shealy’s next door neighbor. She desperately returns to the neighborhood, out of work and pregnant at 40 by a married man.
DOT playwright Colman Domingo has also written Wild With Happy, A Boy and His Soul, Up Jumped Springtime and The Brother(s), and his work has been honored with Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk and Drama League nominations.
His script is crisply and smartly written, and although the production is slightly shy of two hours, it moves along well. The play was directed by Susan Stroman, who has a long line of credits behind her, including directing and choreographing the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Contact, and The Producers, winner of a record-making 12 Tony Awards.
The production is supported in part by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It plays at the Vineyard Theatre until next Thursday, March 24, 2016. Try to make it if you’re in town. It will be an evening well spent.