Lookingglass Theatre presents the world premiere adaption of the award-winning novel STILL ALICE.
I can’t imagine having Alzheimer’s… or maybe now I can. Using the novel by Lisa Genova as her foundation, Adapter and Director Christine Mary Dunford skillfully puts us in the room and in the head of a professor battling the disease. Dunford uses two actors to play Alice. Eva Barr is Alice in the real world. Mariann Mayberry is Alice in Alice’s head. The illustration is genius. Initially, the dressed alike Alices have this sisterly bond of pleasant chit chat. Barr tells Mayberry to remember to call her daughter. They reminisce over missing their mother. The exchanges are comfortably ordinary. Later as a vacant-looking Barr is in a conversation, a panicked Mayberry scrambles to figure out what’s going on. They go from companionable pals to war buddies to detangled acquaintances. At one moment, they both agree, ‘I miss myself.’ The statement is like pinching someone to be funny and unexpectedly leaving a mark.
Barr and Mayberry’s relational unity anchors the show in searing truth. In one scene, Barr and Mayberry devise the butterfly plan with a matter-of-fact lucidity. As the disease progresses, the duo stumble over the plan and don’t understand its meaning or execution. Heart-wrenching. In another scene, Barr goes for a run and gets disoriented. Projection Designer Mike Tutaj cleverly illustrates the confusion with a twirling map on the floor. Meanwhile, Mayberry is home moving appliances. The subtle symbolism of the kitchen deconstruction is poignant.
Dunford pulls Alice’s world together with honesty. How does a debilitating disease affect the person and her family? *Really* affect them. Not how Hollywood movies give everyone the perfect lines and reactions. Dunford’s reality adds significant depth to this play. The family dynamics change as members react to Barr’s illness. The golden boy, Cliff Chamberlain (Thomas) wants the intellectual adoration of his mother. A frustrated Chamberlain resents the changes to his life while a delighted Joanne Dubach (Lydia) finally has a relationship with her overbearing mother. A declining Barr tells Dubach, “you can’t make your decisions based on what someone may or may not do.” The rebellious Dubach visibly transforms. For most of the play, Hubby Chris Donahue (John) straddles between being detached, helpless, resigned and unlikable. In a pivotal moment, he unravels the sincere intention of his action. Suddenly, we see the stakes clearly from his point of view. This is real life on Alzheimer’s.
I don’t remember (no pun intended) ever seeing a depiction of Alzheimer’s so clearly from the inflicted person’s point of view. STILL ALICE is an exceptional and moving story told from the inside out.
Running Time: One hundred minutes with no intermission
At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan
Based on the novel by Lisa Genova
Adapted and directed by Christine Mary Dunford
Tuesdays (May 7th and 14th) at 7:30pm
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 3pm
Thru May 19th
Buy Tickets at www.lookingglasstheatre.org
Photo by Liz Lauren