Playwright and Director, Colman Domingo has given his hometown a wonderful gift in Dot running at People’s Light and Theater Company. It is a play that takes place in West Philadelphia at Christmastime. Although it is about a family in crisis, it is so much more. What drives the play is the wonderful characters that Domingo creates. He doesn’t focus on one character but concentrates on the interactions that each has with the other. The interactions read amazingly true. Each character brings his or her powerful story to the play. It is the intersection of these stories that create both the conflict and the healing.
As the matriarch, Dotty, Natalie Carter is endearing and loving. She seamlessly floats between the present and the past. Through her conversations we learn the she dearly loved and missed her husband, and that she had standing in the community. She is joined in the powerful opening scene by her eldest daughter Shelly played with frustrated passion by Zuhairah. She makes you feel every tiny emotion that flows through her body. The third participant is K. O’Rourke as Jackie, a white friend of the family who has been away in New York who has returned home to figure out what to do with her life. The three of them do a wonderful job introducing the situation and the characters.
In the next scene we meet Donnie the brother (Andre Ward) and his white husband Adam (Parker Drown). Donnie and Jackie were together in high school before he came out and she still carries a flame for him. Fidel (Tyler Elliot) is an immigrant from Kazakhstan who stays with the mother when Shelly can’t be there. Fidel obsequiously dotes on Dot and is helpful to all the family. Last, but not least, is Averie played with seductive energy by Kai Heath. Both she and Donnie have been avoiding their responsibility towards their mother, but they don’t want to give up their lives like they perceive Shelly does.
At least partially the star of act 2 is William Boles amazing set and the stage crew. The first two scenes take place in the kitchen, but you can see the depth of three rooms. At intermission they reverse things so that the rest of the play can take place in the living room. Kathy Perkins lighting design complements the space to give a realistic feel to the set. The actors take full advantage of this wonderful space as they all face the demons and find a path for their family.
Costume designer Kara Harmon and Sound Designer Larry Fowler complete the feel of the piece. It is truly a team effort. Dot runs through October 20th on the Steinbright Stage. For tickets and information call 610.644.3500 or go online at www.peopleslight.org.
Photos by Mark Garvin