In People’s Light’s vibrant production of Dot, memories fill the Shealy family’s West Philadelphia home like radio waves. Through the living room, dining room, and kitchen they fill every nook and cranny. They seem invisible until a receptor flips and they flood in. Like a song once known on the piano, these memories flow from our brains to our fingers and…play. As the characters keep saying, they flow “In and out. In and out. In and out.”
These memories are of the old neighborhood, dead husbands and fathers, teenage romances, and sibling squabbles. The family matriarch, Dot (Natalie Carter), has Alzheimers and is quickly deteriorating. It’s Christmas, and all three children are home; decisions need to be made. The most energizing aspect of Colmon Domingo’s fantastic play is the way in which this family feels lived in and loved. While the premise of Dot is dark, it’s buoyed by its sharp comedy. This is a family that uses’s humor to escape, explore, and work through their own pain.
Stand out performances abound. As siblings, attorney Shelly (Zuhairah), writer Donnie (André Ward,), and wanna Youtube celebrity Averie (Kai Heath) express love and frustration through petty turf wars, inside jokes, and side-eyes. Parker Drown plays Donnie’s Husband Adam with equal parts vapid-twink mischief and loving care.
Playwright Colmon Domingo’s deep love for these characters and knowledge of the region spill off the stage. His direction does leave the ensemble vulnerable during some of the plays weaker moments, including an unfortunately rushed side-plot about the Sheal’y Kazakh caregiver. Even so, one leaves the theater eager to spend more time with this family.
[People’s Light, Steinbright Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA] September 18–October 20, 2019; peopleslight.org