Dot

Dot is a memory play, but not in the typical sense. No, there's no nostalgia or wistful longing for a simpler time. Instead, playwright (and actor, though not in this) Colman Domingo has written (what must be a deeply personal) play about memory.

The titular Dot (Marjorie Johnson, so good) is the family matriarch but she is in the early- to mid-stages of Alzheimer's and dementia. Her eldest daughter, Shelly (Sharon Washington, terrific), bears the brunt of the caretaking responsibilities, and she is at her wits end. At rise, it's a few days before Christmas. Shelly's childhood friend, Jackie (Finnerty Steeves), has unexpectedly come back to town (that would be Philadelphia). In high school, Jackie carried a torch for the now-out Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore), Shelly's brother, who is married to Adam (Colin Hanlon) and lives out of town. Shelly and Donnie's younger sister, Averie (Libya V. Pugh) lives in Shelly's basement, but doesn't do much in the way of helping out. Any caretaking relief Shelly receives comes courtesy of Fidel (Michael Rosen), the Kazakhstan-born young aide she's hired.

That sounds more complicated than it is. This is, simply put, a story about a family coming to terms with the new normal. Essentially, it is about control. Dot is losing hers involuntarily while her children struggle to keep control over their own lives. They all must learn to relinquish control, and let their loved ones take care of them.

I promise you it's not sappy, and it does not smack of an after-school special. Domingo (who has appeared as an actor in The Scotsboro Boys, among other works) has written an unsparingly honest play, one that sees family members talking to one another like only family members can. Directed by Susan Stroman (Scotsboro, Big Fish), the pacing is terrific, and I could appreciate the way the conversations overlapped. Dot is equal parts hilarious and devastating, even more so for someone who's been through this (or has witnessed it and is terrified of going through it, like yours truly).

After being in a bit of a malaise with regard to what's been treading the boards recently, Dot gave me that jolt of ferocity and authenticity I want in theatre; something meaty, with great writing and terrific performances. It's the first must-see new play of 2016.

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