Review: The Waverly Gallery, starring Elaine May

October 2, 2018

In the latest Kenneth Lonergan play to hit Broadway, Elaine May stars as a feisty grandmother battling Alzheimer's disease. A former lawyer and owner of a small art gallery in Greenwich Village, the show follows Gladys Green as she fights to retain her independence and the effect of her decline on her family, especially her grandson, Daniel. 

 

The story follows Gladys' decline, told through Daniel's memories. She lives in an apartment down the hall from him and has dinner every Wednesday with her daughter Ellen, and Ellen's second husband, Howard (David Cromer).  Her routine is adjusted when Don (Michael Cera), a young artist from Boston, comes to New York and asks to hang his work in her gallery - what will end up being the last show on display. 

 

Gladys (Elaine May), as noted by Daniel (Lucas Hedges), has had her mind smashed to pieces. Through May's brilliant performance we can piece together the woman she once was. But look closely and you'll also see what the future may be, as Ellen (Joan Allen) wonders if she will have the same fate as her mother.

 

While the plot simply centers around Gladys' decline, it is a study of humanity, and how we handle the process of aging. Much like Lonergan's other works, it studies the matter of aging through what seems like it could be a memoir, while still being perfectly suited to the stage. 

 

The play is unapologetically human and incredibly thoughtful in its approach to tackling Alzheimer’s and the struggles of those who watch a loved one go through it. Passionate, surprisingly funny, and with brilliant performances, The Waverly Gallery deals with real life. It taps into the real world struggles, from memory loss to the need for round-the-clock care. It begs us to think about the future, and to take a look into what the future could be, no matter how what it will be, and to see when laughter can no longer mask the pain we are going through. 

 

 

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