George Robert Bailey, Joey Arena and Jeremy Gutierrez in Writing My Own Obituary. Photo: Erika Wardlow.
Writing My Own Obituary
Written & directed by Bill Baker
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
When you die you relinquish control, which is what a last will and testament is for. But how many of us think about how our obituary will read? Will it capture the meaning of our life beyond the essential details and dates?
That’s what Carl (George Robert Bailey) wants, but he has writer’s block, so he and his wife Andrea (Audra Lopez) spend time reading through the online obits and soon she joins him in the decision to draft their own.
It’s an odd, low-key opening, but Bill Baker’s conceit is only a catalyst for a series of scenes in which the couple assess their 40+ years together with some surprises cropping up along the way. It argues that the recipe for a long and happy marriage may very well include a few carefully guarded secrets.
Carl takes care of his family, beginning with bailing his grandson Nick (Jeremy Guiterrez) out of jail after a barfight, agreeing not to tell his parents, Carl and Andrea’s daughter, Ann (Teesy Rogers), and her husband, Steve (Joey Arena). By the time we meet granddaughter, Nancy (Em Olson) at her high school graduation party the length of that caretaking role is made clear.
Baker’s writing is heartfelt and well-observed, and if his deliberately episodic structure fails to build narrative momentum it seems a comfortable and appropriate manner to engage with these characters. There is some redundancy in the dialogue that shows that the play could have benefitted from an editor’s eye, but it is a fair guess that Baker invests much of himself into Carl. This is a play about looking back in order to look forward.
George Robert Bailey has the luck of the lines here, making the most of Carl’s one-liners and comic resignation to easily dominate the performance, although he is also a supportive scene partner for his co-stars. An exchange with Arena and Guiterrez in the 2nd act is especially effective, and Teesy Rogers brings professional authority to Ann. Em Olsen and Audra Lopez do nice work here as well but this is inevitably Carl’s play.
Writing My Own Obituary is tailor-made for the older-trending audience at Little Colonel Playhouse, and the subject seemed to resonate on opening night. Efficiency and taste in the design work for sets and costumes framed this ruminative and heart-warming family comedy
Featuring Joey Arena, George Robert Bailey, Jeremy Gutierrez, Audra Lopez, Em Olsen, & Teesy Rogers
Writing My Own Obituary
June 2, 3, 8, 9, & 10 @ 7:30 pm
June 4 & 11 @ 2:00 pm
Little Colonel Players
302 Mt Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, KY 40056
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.