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By Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

WaterTower Theatre

Directed by Susan Sargeant
Set Design by Claire DeVries
Costume Design by Barbara Cox
Lighting Design by Jeff Stover
Sound Design by Lowell Sargeant
Dramaturg – Kyle Eric Bradford
Stage Management by Caron Grant
Assistant Stage Management by Alexis Garcia

Reviewed Performance: 6/8/2015

Reviewed by Daniel Solon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

WaterTower Theatre presents Dallas playwright Vicki Caroline Cheatwood’s Manicures & Monuments, an often funny tale of the residents of an Oklahoma nursing home and the young manicurist-in-training, Janann Vanschuyver whose youthful naiveté clashes with curt resident Lucinda Bailey. Tempers flare as the two women collide in their struggle to understand each other.

Cheatwood and director Susan Sergeant more than adequately evoke the sleepy, spacious, social-void that one might expect from a nursing home in Oklahoma. This no-frills narrative may actually be the undoing of what is otherwise a touching character study. While the cast turn out ample moments of elegant performance, the dramatic action of the piece is inert. At intermission, my companion and I wondered what, if anything, remained to be resolved after milling about the WaterTower’s lovely gardens.

It’s clear from lights-up that our protagonists are in the later stages of aging. Where do we go from there? Unless a team of rejuvenating aliens make a surprise appearance (as in the 1980’s film Cocoon), downward spiral is inevitable. We hope that Mikaela Krantz’s youthful Janann is able to eek out a modicum of life lesson before the rest of the cast expire. But she’d better hurry, because between failing hearts and mental disorders, opportunities are fleeting.

Admittedly, It’s exciting to be audience to a show featuring so many actors of a certain age - but there is little opportunity for these characters to exert their desires as they are far from spry. Most of the humor darkly relies on trite observations on aging. Elly Lindsay’s Camille Dugan is charmingly flighty and compensates for her diminished short term memory with a pleasant ease. But observing her descent into obsolescence doesn’t substantiate a plot.

These women are clearly of a generation that is comfortable with a nice, long chat. We’re treated to several lengthy expositional monologues (in fact, exposition is what this piece thrives on). Perhaps this style of performance makes a tough translation to the contemporary stage, but my opening night audience was stocked with elderly season ticket holders who, by the second act, seemed anxious to get to the point.

Clare Floyd Devries' cavernous single-room set did very little to tighten the flow of the evening. In several scenes, our geriatric heroes are tasked with delivering casual dialogue some 15-feet apart from each other. Crossing from stage left to right is no easy task in a wheelchair or walker. If anything, the accuracy with which the common room is recreated only serves to underscore why the able-bodied don’t willingly enjoy two hours in a nursing home. Jeff Stover’s flat and unremarkable lighting seemed at times comical as technicolor pink LED sunsets indelicately splashed across a poorly hanged scrim.

There are moments of nostalgia to be savored (for those who are prone to that sort of masochism). Pam Dougherty’s Lucinda Bailey is an excellently drawn and vividly portrayed force. In the final, promising moments of the show, Janann abducts Bailey to escape the nursing home and make a life-changing road trip to Mount Rushmore. Spoiler alert: they never make it. Instead, they return to the nursing home to chat, yet again, about opportunities lost.

By this point in the evening, I could relate.

The WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Rd, Addison, TX 75001
Through June 28, 2015

7:30 PM Wednesdays & Thursdays
8:00 PM Fridays & Saturdays (June 20 and 27, 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm)
2:00pm Sundays
7:30 pm Monday June 8th only
Single Tickets: $22 - $40
Preview Tickets: $20
Box Office 972.450.6232