Molly has a PLAN – if only she could remember what it was…
The US Premiere of a New Play by Ronan Carr
A Theater Review by Julinda D. Lewis
At: The Firehouse, 1609 West Broad St., Richmond, RVA 23220
Performances: June 23 – July 17, 2022
Ticket Prices: $30
Info: (804) 355-2001 or firehousetheatre.org.
THE BARBER OF MOVILLE is one of the most touching plays I’ve seen all season – perhaps ever. And by touching, I mean you will need tissues. As the play opens, Molly (Katie McCall) is preparing to open up the barber shop she took over after her father died. She heats water for tea – this is, after all, Ireland – and listens to opera as she prepares to receive her first customer, a Wednesday regular. Molly’s husband Dommo (David Bridgewater) soon comes into the shop from the attached living quarters. He’s carrying two suitcases and appears surprised to see that Molly is preparing to open shop. He gently explains that is has been several years since the regular customer Molly is expecting has come into the shop.
It doesn’t take long for the audience to figure out that Molly has Alzheimer’s and despite how put-together and fit she looks, her memory appears to be rapidly deteriorating. But the couple has a Plan. That explains the suitcases: a modern rolling bag and a clunky vintage number. They are about to leave their outdated little barber shop in Derry City, Ireland for an adventure in Zurich, Switzerland, where they plan to check into a fine hotel, attend the opera, and then take Molly to see the doctor. The well-planned trip, Molly’s idea actually, has been carefully documented in Molly’s little black book as Dommo calls it – or notebook, as she insists – and the couple even has a written contract spelling out all the details of their trip. That seems a little excessive, you say? Well, not when you understand that Dommo has a round-trip ticket and Molly doesn’t…
Before leaving, the obviously loving couple takes a trip down memory lane – a tricky proposition when one’s memory has become your arch enemy. There are warm and even humorous moments as we eavesdrop on the couple’s joyous if sometimes frustrating conversation. We hear of their youthful days in art college and learn that Molly prefers Bruce Springsteen while Dommo leans towards Meatloaf, but then there is also a darker side to their story. Molly’s Aunt Christine apparently also had the same disease that is eroding Molly’s sense of self and then there is the uneasy revelation of her beloved father’s true character.
Katie McCall and David Bridgewater inhabit these characters with dignity, with faith. They infuse them with warmth, humanity, and authenticity far beyond mere acting technique. Nathaniel Shaw’s directing is also gentle, yet refuses to hide any of the details of the mental, physical, and emotional toll that Alzheimer’s can wreck on an individual and on a relationship. A clock on the wall of the barber shop has been set to run in real time and we can see the entire play unfold in 60 minutes. At the end of that 60 minutes, Dommo rips up the contract, and I wiped my eyes. By the end, it felt as if I had been watching something sacred and private, not just watching a play for entertainment. At the end, I could go home and leave Molly and Dommo behind, but that will not be an option for everyone who sees this play. Wisely, for this run Firehouse has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, and scheduled several post-show talkbacks.
Set in the present, in a little town that is stuck in the past, the ambience reflects the disarray of Molly’s mind. So does Chris Raintree’s scenic design: a two-chair barber shop complete with the traditional red, white and blue pole. But the left two-thirds of the set is orderly, if a bit dated, while the right third reflects chaos – a broken mirror, cracks in the wall. So many of the pieces fit together perfectly, from Molly’s long, loose sweater and comfortable shoes (thanks to Costume designer Colin Lowrey II) to McCall’s and Bridgewater’s soft Irish accents (kudos, once again, to Dialect Coach Erica Hughes). I have never once been disappointed or felt confused when I’ve seen Hughes listed in a program as the Dialect Coach.
THE BARBER OF MOVILLE is a beautiful play that makes me want to see more of Carr’s work. It runs at the Firehouse through July 17.
THE BARBER OF MOVILLE
The US Premiere of a New Play by Ronan Carr
Directed by Nathaniel Shaw
Molly Green ……………….. Katie McCall
Dommo Green ……………….. David Bridgewater
Nathaniel Shaw – Director
Chris Raintree – Scenic Designer
Colin Lowrey II – Costume Designer
Todd Labelle – Lighting and Sound Designer
Erica Hughes – Dialect Coach
Dennis Bowe – Stage Manager
Bill Sigafoos – Photographer
Thu June 23 @ 7:30pm (preview)
Fri June 24 @ 7:30pm (preview/post show talkback)
Sat June 25 @ 7:30pm (opening)
Fri July 1 @ 7:30pm (post show talkback)
Sat July 2 @ 7:30pm
Sun July 3 @ 3pm (post show talkback)
Fri July 8 @ 7:30pm
Sat July 9 @ 7:30pm
Sun July 10 @ 3pm (post show talkback)
Fri July 15 @ 7:30pm
Sat July 16 @ 7:30pm
Sun July 17 @ 3pm (post show talkback)
Run time: 60 minutes with no intermission
The Firehouse Theatre requires all audience members to be fully vaccinated and to wear face masks inside the Firehouse.
Photo Credits: Bill Sigafoos
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