Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
June 20, 2014
If you’ve ever looked into the vacant eyes of someone with Alzheimer ’s disease, and wondered what was going on in their head, “ Milvotchkee , Visconsin ” is for you.
Even if you haven’t gotten up close and personal with this increasingly widespread form of dementia, the 85-minute Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company production is well worth your time.
Linda Libby gives a superbly nuanced performance, revealing the many colors of the disease: the fear, sadness, anger, frustration, depression and finally, acceptance.
We see the world through the eyes of Molly, a long-time, fictional docent at a real-life locale, Wisconsin Concrete Park, one man’s unique vision of local and world culture, conceived in folk art sculptures.
We are, in fact, one of her tour groups, and she happily relates factoids about Fred Smith, creator of the park, who began his life’s work in 1948. Molly’s husband is along for the tour, too. To him, she confides distress about having to consult her notes more often than before. Soon, we learn that Molly’s husband died years ago, and though Fred Smith makes occasional appearances, too, he’s also long dead.
Playwright Laura Jacqumin had some family experience with dementia, as does director Robert Barry Fleming. Though many scenes are wildly amusing, they provide sharp insights into what frightened adult children, frustrated physicians and impatient healthcare workers might actually be thinking.
The design team has done an excellent job of re-creating the park; the props are humorous and elaborate. The lighting and sound underscore Molly’s increasing confusion about what she calls the “hole” in her head, embodied by an insouciant Greg Watanabe. Like the four other skilled actors, he morphs into multiple characters, the interchangeability of people making a potent statement.
Every imaginative directorial decision expertly serves Jacqmin’s enlightening vision which, though disturbing at times, ends on a positive note that can be taken as a message for us all: Live for now. See each moment as just one in “a mix of moments.” Cherish every instant.
“ Milvotchkee , Visconsin ” runs through June 29 at the 10th Avenue Theatre.
©2014 PAT LAUNER