The Memory Show

It’s hard to say I liked The Memory Show since the material doesn’t exactly lend itself to overzealous praise. But this story of a daughter and her mother, who is in the early stages of early on-set Alzheimer’s, is an accurate depiction of the struggle and what it’s like for a daughter to watch her mother slip away. 

The defiant, paranoid demeanor of the Alzheimer’s patient who doesn’t comprehend that she has a problem isn’t often spoken about outside of support groups so I think it’s good that this subject matter is being tackled. Some of what happened on stage hit a little too close to home to leave me feeling comfortable, but it did so in a way that’s reassuring, knowing that something like this is out there and that other people have dealt with this and felt this way, too.

This new musical, with book and lyrics by Sara Cooper and music by Zach Redler, begins with the mother (Catherine Cox) at the doctor’s office pondering the strangeness of the doctor’s question, “Who’s the president of the United States?” Of course the mother is laughing at the absurdity of the question, but Cooper and Redler pack a punch at the end when the mother finishes by saying, “I don’t know who is the president of the United States.” We then meet the 30-something daughter (Leslie Kritzer), who has given up her apartment and much of her fledging social life to live with and take care of her mother. The rest of the show, directed by Joe Calarco, traces their relationship as the mother’s condition intensifies and the daughter gains a better, more clear understanding of who her mother was and who she is now.

As the mother, Cox does well though I found her character voice to border on grating. Still, she excels in bringing the complexities of this woman to life. I was quite impressed, though, by Kritzer, whose smooth voice gives way to a multitude of emotions, inviting us into her memories and to take this journey with her. 

The Memory Show is presented by the Transport Group (See Rock City and Other Destinations), which endeavors to “explore the challenges of relationships and identity in modern America.” From this perspective, The Memory Show is most certainly a success, and I can see this having a long afterlife at regional theatres.