At Compass Rose Theater’s new location on Spa Road in Annapolis, they are currently showing Eleemosynary; “Spelled e-l-e-e-m-o-s-y-n-a-r-y and defined as, “Of, relating to, or dependent on charity; charitable.” Playwright, Lee Blessing repeats the definition throughout the play, reminding the audience that charity is a give and take. And that is what Dorothea (played by Ilona Pulaski), Artie (portrayed by Janel Miley) and Echo (Maya Brettell), work through and throughout on this production.
Brettell begins the show by playing Echo as sweet and innocent. She and her grandmother, Dorothea, are charity cases due to circumstances and choices her mother Artie has made. But deep down, Echo is a lot stronger than she cares to display (at first) and is wiser-than-her-age, but most of all, she does not miss a beat. She gets the dynamics between her eccentric grandmother, her absentee mother, and her over-achiever self. Brettell brings forth hurt expressions as Echo, who dotes on her ill grandmother, who has suffered a stroke at the beginning of the play, and tries to fix the love-hate relationship she has with her distant mother by the end of the play.
Applause goes to the actresses, and to the playwright (a man) for writing such a poignant piece.
These women feel deep pain and Artie (Dorothea’s daughter/Echo’s mother) is no exception. Artie’s quirky mother was certain that a human could fly without a motor. Dorothea even designed wings and filmed Artie’s attempt to do so. Throughout the show, Artie tells her painful story of fleeing her mother’s domination most of her life. For a brief moment, Artie’s career is on the right path and so is her personal life, until a tragedy takes it away. Miley embraces the role as Artie and audiences will understand the pain and the sacrifice her character had to bear and why. Miley is talented at conveying Artie’s agonizing troubles.
Who doesn’t have an eccentric grandmother? And Ilona Dulaski plays Dorothea’s quirkiness to the hilt. Venturing that Dorothea was a 1960s child and meandered into the 1970s, her persona changed further after she meets a spiritualist. Following the teachings of American psychic Edgar Casey, Dorothea seems to be a total flake but she really feels the restrictions of the “I am Woman, hear me roar” era. Dorothea “becomes eccentric the way people become Lutheran,” after her spiritualist informs her that eccentrics are not held responsible. Dulaski keenly demonstrates Dorothea’s determination to convert her daughter and granddaughter to embrace her philosophies – “because they were so freeing.”
Yet these women are imprisoned by their roles as grandmother, mother, and daughter. Each woman is an over-achiever, out to prove her worth. They ache to love and to be loved, to be accepted and understood. Dulaski, Miley, and Brettell communicate that in a series of monologues to the audience and through their interactions with each other. Moving about the sparse platforms and all three are dressed in different shades of blue, audience members will embrace and empathize with these women.
Eleemosynary is a touching depiction of the roles women are assigned to fulfill and the dynamics that cross over from generation to generation. It was strikingly enjoyable. Applause goes to the actresses, and to the playwright (a man) for writing such a poignant piece.
Running Time: One hour and twenty minutes with no intermission.
Eleemosynary runs through May 12, 2013 at Compass Rose Theater, 49 Spa Road, Annapolis, MD. For tickets, click here.