Three Bone Theatre's 'Dot' explores a mother's fading memory
At the center of the new play, “Dot,” which opened Friday at the Arts Factory, is a widowed, 65-year-old woman who at times is perfectly lucid, and at other times is lost and disoriented in her own home.
She goes to the cupboard for salt and returns with Oreos. She cracks the same joke repeatedly. She forgets the names of her children and confuses people.
We learn that Dotty – as she’s referred to lovingly by her family -- has Alzheimer’s, and her adult children, home for the holidays, have to set aside their own personal crises and conflicts to reckon with their mother’s illness.
The play was written by Colman Domingo and opened on Broadway in 2016, when The New York Times described is as “uproariously funny, if naturally streaked with sadness.”
The show is debuting in Charlotte under the direction of Corey Mitchell, who tells WFAE he was struck by how personal the script felt when he first read through it.
“It almost seems to parallel my own life, because I have a younger sister and an older brother, and my mother lives with my sister. There are a lot of issues of dealing with the health of a parent that just parallel my own life, and I felt like I was reading myself,” he said.
Leading the seven-member cast in the title role of Dotty is local actress Lillie Ann Oden, who was last seen in Three Bone Theater’s ‘The Children,’ in March.
“When I read the script, I thought that Dot is people that I know and people that I can relate to. So I was excited, because it is a challenge to go into all these different transitions that she goes through with her mind, and to convince people that she really does have this debilitating disease,” Oden said.
The play also explores the lives of Dotty’s three children. There’s Donnie (Marvin King) and his husband Adam (Tommy Prudenti) who are in conflict because Donnie is more of a homebody while Adam likes to party. There’s also younger sister Averie (Nasha Shandri) who clings to her fading fame as a viral star, and there’s older sister Shelly (Valerie Thames) who stays home to care for her mother, but feels the pull from her job as an attorney.
Rounding out the cast is Donnie’s high school sweetheart Jackie (Amy Dunn) who never seems to have gotten over Donnie’s coming out, and the hired caretaker Fidel (Satheesh Kandula).
Over the course of the play, the characters have to take a step back from their own lives and figure out what their mother’s illness will mean for the family. That, Mitchell said, will be a familiar theme to anyone who’s had to care for a parent.
“Sometimes we get caught up in our own lives, and the work that we do on a daily basis just seems to consume us,” Mitchell said. “The arc of these characters is they actually have to stop and reckon with each other emotions and what each (of them) is dealing with, as well as with their mother, and I think it transforms them into becoming an even closer family.”
What might audiences take away from the show?
“That family is messy, it is complicated, it is loud, it is crazy, but it is also wonderful,” Mitchell said.
Oden agreed, adding “family just has to come together and do their part, even though they are dysfunctional.”
Three Bone Theatre's 'Dot' by Colman Domingo opens Friday, May 6 at the Arts Factory at West End Studios. The play will run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 21.