(clockwise) Immanuel Guest, Jacob Cooper, Elias Feghaly, & Kym Vaughn in Dot. Photo: Pandora
By Coleman Domingo
Directed by Alonzo Ramont
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
There is no place like home for the Holidays. Coming home for the holidays brings on that special extra stress that I think is relatable to any kind of family. At its 2015 premiere in the Humana Festival at Actors Theater, Dot is a heartwarming story of a family coming together in aid of the matriarch’s descent into Alzheimer’s. It was truly a pleasure to see then, and it is again through Pandora Productions’ current staging.
What is incredibly striking about Coleman Domingo’s play is the layered dialogue and its ability to keep hold of the audience throughout the story. At any given time, characters speak on top of one another, sharing gossip or stories from church. Set in the living room and kitchen of the Shealey residence in Philadelphia, the small, tight nit cast keeps the conversational interactions flowing at a bouncy pace, adding a familiar resonance that never feels performed. As an audience, we are merely peering into the lives of Dot and her three children who share inside jokes, squabble, and reminisce about childhood while also worrying about the future.
As the title character, Kym Vaughn floats easily between the dynamic of the loving matriarch and the ever-progressive signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Vaughn captures Dot’s decreasing lucid moments where she shares memories of her husband and attempts to keep ahold of her ability to recognize and connect. As she slides deeper into the recesses of the diseases, Vaughn’s performance remains present, hopeful, and poignant. Although Dot suffers from a terrible disease, Vaughn keeps her story from feeling tragic.
Each of Dot’s children copes and cares for their mother in their own distinct way. Seprica White brings out a Type-A personality as Shelly, the daughter living closest to Dot. White levels the stress of constantly caring for an ailing parent with the exasperation of everyday stressors. Immanuel Guest is even more tightly wound as Donnie. Along with his partner, Adam, played by Jacob Cooper, Guest struggles with seeing his mother in decline. Cooper and Guest provide a heartwarming couple who face an awkward interaction with Donnie’s high school sweetheart Jackie, played by Sage Martin. Awkward moments produce laughs as Cooper, Martin, and Guest engage with crossed signals and finally move forward with their lives.
Rounding out the Shealey family is Avery, played by August Anderson. A loud and boisterous would be-social media star, Anderson enters with high energy at the end of act one. Anderson, Guest, and White embrace the intertwining patterns of Domingo’s dialogue while Shelly, Donny, and Avery debate and discuss when will be a good time to put Dot in assisted living and how much longer they might have with her. Through all the late-night fights and make-ups, the culmination of the Shealey family comes midway through the second act as Dot provides simple gifts to her three children. In a scene that could be construed as too preachy, the ensemble provides genuine emotional responses to an unexpected experience. When Donnie literally walks in Dot’s shoes and briefly sees what she experiences on a daily basis, new understandings are made.
The concept of the family runs deep in Dot. Director Alonzo Ramont states in his notes “with Alzheimer’s as the focal point of this show, you’ll find that the Shealy family are fun, welcoming, flawed, and simply real,” and Dot at Pandora Productions shows how strong a family bond can be.
Featuring August Anderson, Jacob Cooper, Elias Feghaly, Immanuel Guest, Sage Martin, Kym Vaughn, Seprica White
January 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 @ 7:30 pm & January 16 @ 7:00 pm
January 15 @ 2:30 pm & January 22 @ 5:30 pm
Henry Clay Theater
604 S. Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!