Monday, June 12, 2017

Review of Irish Theatre of Chicago's The My Way Residential

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The My Way Residential. It was by Geraldine Aron and it was directed by Kevin Theis. It was about a woman named Willa (Belinda Bremner) who had just been sent to an old folks' home, and she was not very happy about it. But she ends up meeting a young man named Byron (Terry Bell) from South Africa who works there. They develop a close bond and become family to each other. It is about friendship, learning about another culture, and neglect. I think that this is a really powerful and fun show. It made me laugh and it made me cry; it gave me all the feels.

This was a good show, and you'll see how much I loved it in the rest of the review, but I felt like the script was slightly flawed. I felt like it exaggerated characteristics of some of the characters to show how terrible they were. I don't think they needed to be so terrible for it to still make sense that Willa and Byron didn't like being where they were. Willa's daughter, Catherine (Carolyn Kruse), was not really a very good daughter or a good wife. The author made it so she did so many terrible things, like not visit her mother at the home because she had to go sleep with this guy who wasn't her husband, that she seemed villainous. I think it would have been more interesting if they had given more layers to that characters. I don't think Jack (Jeff Christian), her husband, was a needed character because you don't really get to know much about him other than that he is very posh and not very interesting to his wife. Sister Chang (Christine Bunuan) was the manager of the home. She was another character who seemed pretty evil. She would break into residents' rooms and steal their chocolate, and what is worse that stealing chocolate!? The problem is that she doesn't really have a backstory or a reason why she is doing all these bad things. By no means was it the actors' faults. They were just doing what the roles asked. I've found all these actors very layered and likable in other shows I've seen them in.

There were a lot of sweet moments between Byron and Willa in this show. They show you the connection they have built, and it is super sweet to see their relationship grow over time. One of my favorite moments was when they were celebrating Willa's birthday and Byron showed her gumboots, which was a dance that he learned in South Africa. She was just so captivated by the dance and found it so exciting, and it was just adorable. The dance consists of hitting rubber boots in a rhythmic pattern while stomping and shouting. I thought it was super cool. He is sharing a part of his culture and she shares a part of her culture, also known as fig rolls! They also planned the house together that he was going to build in South Africa, with a veranda. They decided against having two verandas, because if one had the better view, why would you ever go on the second veranda? This scene showed you that even though their cultures are quite different, they had a lot in common--like their practicality and their love of verandas. He does respect her opinions and takes her seriously, but sadly he is the only one who does. The bathtub scene was really moving because Byron basically rescues Willa from being stuck in the bathtub forever, but he has to do it without opening his eyes because she doesn't want him seeing her nude in the bath. He sings her a lullaby afterwards to calm her down. It is really moving and beautiful to watch.

There were also a lot of funny moments in the show. Byron told a story about a man in his village whose girlfriend lived across these crocodile-infested waters. And he had just gotten new shoes that he wanted to show off to his girlfriend. But to cross the waters he couldn't wear the shoes, so he had to balance them on his head. The people watching him saw a crocodile coming up behind him and what they saw was.... Then Byron said, "...him putting on his clothes and his girlfriend liked the shoes very much and they were married soon after." I thought this was a very funny story because it all turned out okay, but he had Willa and everyone in the audience on the edge of their seat waiting to find out what happened to the guy in the crocodile waters. Also, there was a scene where Byron was warning Willa about the drugged cupcakes that Sister Chang would give to residents if they caused trouble. And he starts to give her tips about how people act when they have been drugged by the cupcake, so she can pretend to be drugged when she isn't. After she tries it the first time, he says, "No. No. More like you're drunk!" And then they simultaneously start acting like they are plastered, slurring and twirling their fingers, and it is hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like gumboots, verandas, and pretending to be drugged by cupcakes. I think this is such a good show and people should go see it. It has great actors, an intriguing storyline, and shows a really sweet relationship. I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Emily Schwartz

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