Monday, November 14, 2016

Review of Eclipse Theatre Company's The Little Flower of East Orange

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Little Flower of East Orange. It was by Stephen Adly Guirgis and it was directed by Steve Scott. It was about a man named Danny (John Henry Roberts, who is my dad) who was an alcoholic and a drug addict who was taking care of his mother Therese Marie (Jeannie Affelder). And he had to go away to rehab so his sister Justina (Jess Maynard) had to take care of his mom. And then Therese goes out and about on her own and falls down the stairs (maybe on purpose) and ends up in the hospital and nobody knew who she was. Her entire family was scared for her because they had no idea where she had gone. It's about devotion, mortality, and loving someone but not knowing how to show it. This was a really beautiful and amazing show. It brought me to tears four separate times.

Therese’s name is not found out in a nice way. She is bribed with guilt, scotch, and people telling her she is going to die. Dr. Shankar (Omer Abbas Salem)--like a shank and then a car, as he said--is the one who does this. Nobody in the play seemed to like him very much, and he didn’t seem to be a great doctor, but I thought he was funny because of how feisty he was even when everyone hated him. The detective (Marc Rogers) was a little bit nicer about getting information out of Therese. He goes and gets her scotch and he just talks with her about her life before this accident happened.

The people who worked at the hospital had a good amount of the funny lines. Espinosa (Donovan Diaz) was very sassy but also could give you a good bit of advice. He was very into New York sports. And if somebody didn't know a certain player or a certain team, they were immediately inferior to the rest of the world. He calls David (John Arthur Lewis) puto affectionately and tells him it means good friend and that he should call his doorman puto next time. That entire time he has a very sly grin on his face because puto does not mean good friend. Magnolia (Ebony Joy) wouldn't take any crap from anyone but she was very nice as well. She is very nice to Therese. Therese thought Magnolia was Jackie Robinson, but she was clearly not him. Therese just thought it because she was hallucinating. But Magnolia just goes along with it and doesn’t get all mad.

Nadine (Ashley Hicks) was Danny’s girlfriend and she had a lot of problems just like Danny, but she was also really nice to Therese and tried to understand where she was coming from. She was always high. Something unique about her is that she can see Therese’s dead dad Francis James (Michael Stark). I think the play might have done that because it wanted to show that these people were similar, even though Therese doesn’t really like that Nadine is with Danny. They both take drugs to make them feel better, but Nadine takes illegal drugs. They both want to take care of Danny, but neither of them are good at doing that without damaging him further. For example, Nadine gives him a slurpee...with gin in it, but that probably wasn't the best idea. They are also both damaged themselves. The play doesn’t specify why Nadine is being rough on herself, but you find out Therese had an abusive father.

A big theme in this show is the different ways characters are incapacitated. Danny can't help his mom, and he can't stop taking drugs and drinking. Justina feels helpless that she can't stop her mom from feeling bad. David thinks about killing himself because his mom is dying. Therese can't help her children or feeling like a burden. Francis James is incapacitated by his temper and alcohol. Basically Danny is not completely incapacitated because he is still trying to take care of his mom and his life, but he wants to do it himself. That is not a very good idea. I think you need to get through what you are struggling with and then get back to helping others, but his plans all get mucked up because they are going to send Therese to an old folks home and he feels obligated to save her. He is kind of angry all the time at her for scaring him by running away and for not being a very good mom, and he is also mad that she doesn’t blame her father more for messing her up. He feels like she is being too nice. Danny has a very complicated relationship with his mom where he loves her but is kind of mean to her too. You see how complicated it is in the last scene; it shows how angry they can get at each other and still love each other. That made me cry, because the thought of loving your mother and wanting the best for her but not agreeing with her is very sad. It was even harder to see my dad in this situation, but I think it will still have impact on other people when they see it.

People who would like this show are people who like stories with impact, sassy hospital workers, and gin slurpees. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a very beautiful show and I really loved it.

Photos: Scott Dray

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