TEXARKANA, Texas — Funny, poignant and moving, the memory play "The Waverly Gallery" will be staged by Texarkana Repertory Co. next week with a five-performance, four-day run.
Performed at Texarkana College's Stilwell Theatre, "The Waverly Gallery" describes how a family manages one strong matriarch's descent into Alzheimer's disease. As told by her grandson, how Gladys's family manages her strong-willed personality and the art gallery's final exhibit are explored in this Kenneth Lonergan work.
The play was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist. A 2018-2019 Broadway revival starred, among others, Elaine May, Joan Allen and Michael Cera.
Now, TexRep director Michael Cooper and crew stage a version for Texarkana. The show runs one week only, starting Thursday, Sept. 12 (7:30 p.m.), then continuing on Friday, Sept. 13 (7:30 p.m.), Saturday, Sept. 14 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) and Sunday, Sept. 15 (2 p.m.).
"There really is humor in it, as there is in life," Cooper said, noting it's a show that needs a seasoned cast. The core of the story is difficult. "It's a memory play, a grandson telling about his grandmother, who was really an exceptional woman and did so many things in her life. As she was older, she runs a little art gallery in Greenwich Village."
Her hearing goes, she forgets things and slowly slips away with Alzheimer's and dementia, the director said. It's heavy, but it's also a subject that touches so many people's lives.
"It's about her but also about how a family deals with it," Cooper said, noting the lead character isn't someone who "relinquishes," but she is relinquishing her faculties. The writing, he said, captures simultaneous conversations going on, just as it happens in real life.
Cooper suspects his actors would agree that it's one of the most challenging plays they've tackled. Timing is essential. "Because the dialogue is so dense. It's just such a wonderful show," he said. "It's in this particular slot for a reason. I just think it's an important piece to do."
As anyone who saw Whitt in "August: Osage County" can surely attest, she can craft a powerful performance.
"She's really, really an incredible actress," Cooper said, noting she also brings humor to it and a joy for life that's important to portray in this character. "It also reflects for her stuff she went through with her own mother," he said, adding, "I could not have a more talented group of actors bringing this play to life."
The playwright, Lonergan, also wrote the plays "This is Our Youth" and "Lobby Hero." He wrote screenplays for the movies "Gangs of New York" and "Manchester by the Sea."
(Tickets: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, or a TexRep membership. Get tickets online at TexRep.org or call 903-831-7827 for more information.)