By Michael Reubens
The title of The Waverly Galley at the Golden Theatre refers to a small privately owned art gallery in New York ’s Greenwich Village. Other scenes in this highly passionate and emotional drama by Kenneth Lonergan focus on Upper West side Manhattan homes from 1989-1991.
A highly-charged, deeply profound and extremely disturbing melodrama involves a woman of a certain age with alzheimers.
The breakdown unraveling physically and mentally in a two year period, the stressful toll it has on her immediate family and an artist that pops into her life are themes of this complex drama.
Elaine May (Gladys Green), best known as a writer/performer with Mike Nichols, highlights a stunning performance whilst rapidly sinking down a rabbit-hole with this chronic disease, constantly repeating herself, incapable at times of any semblance of normality, visually and hearing impaired.
Her daughter, Ellen Fine. (Joan Allen), her husband and step father, Howard Fine (David Cromer) to Daniel Reed (Lucas Hedges), as the devoted grandson, all give powerful performances.
Completing this five-hander is Don Bowman (Michael Cera), a stranger from the Boston area who wanders into Gladys’s life pitching his art work and entering her life!
Act one introduces us to Gladys and Daniel. From the get-go one senses something not quite right. The conversation between them is stilted and repetitive. And it gets worse!
Daniel stops the action from on-stage dialogue to face the audience from time to time as if speaking to an intimate group of friends or co-workers with narration, fragmented gossip and up to date information about his beloved grandmother.
The Wavely Gallery is both chilling and comical, however the central theme of mental illness is anything but amusing. Anyone experiencing an aging relative with alzheimer’s will understand that providing love and support is crucial and that every second counts as life is so fleeting.
Act two is difficult to absorb as Gladys’s onset of Alzheimers deepens. Her senility and hallucinations overwhelm her family and the stress is rampant.
To be seen at all costs. But be forewarned, not for everyone.
As dark and Shakespearean in style in this contemporary age.
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