Dot, a relatively new work by actor and playwright Colman Domingo, is a very different kind of holiday play. It is a honest look at what the holidays are for many families around the country, instead of being a sickeningly sweet nostalgia fest, a category that so many holiday shows fall into.
The show is centered around the Shealy family Christmas and all the challenges that come with it. Dot, the matriarch is suffering from dementia, a fact that all her children know, but none but her oldest daughter and caretaker truly understand. Christmas for the Shealy family is not about reveling in the Christmas spirit, but in getting used to the new normal for the family. Tensions are high, as Shelly, Dot’s oldest daughter is exhausted from being a caretaker in addition to her full-time job. Meanwhile Dot’s younger children, Donny and Averie, are overwhelmed with the reality of the situation. The players on the stage are rounded out by Adam, Donnie’s husband. Fidel, Dot’s under the books caretaker from Kazakhstan. And Jackie, the next-door neighbor who has plenty of problems of her own.
For a story like this to be properly pulled off the performances are vital, and Park Square has done a fantastic job in pulling together a top-notch team of performers, directed by E.G. Bailey. Cynthia Jones-Taylor as Dot is the sympathetic heart and soul of the show that keeps the show beating along, and makes the nearly three hour run time go by quickly. Yvette Ganier as Shelly is fantastic opposite of Jones-Taylor, she is so central to the show it is hard to believe that she was a last minute replacement in this cast. And Dame-Jasmine Hughes as Dot’s youngest daughter Averie commands the stage like always.
This show may be filled with drama, a little too much in my opinion, but it is also very funny. The show was able to have you deeply feeling for a character in one moment, and laughing in the next. The balance held throughout this show is artfully handled.
Dot is a sensitive, honest, and funny look at how dementia affects a family at the holidays. If you are looking for a dose of theatrical reality amidst all the nostalgia then make your way over to Park Square Theater to see Dot.
Dot is playing at Park Square Theater’s Proscenium Stage until January 7th. For more information about the show and how to get tickets click here.
*Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma