We’ve all seen a number of plays, movies, and shows on television about a spouse who strays … but what do you do when your husband or wife has Alzheimer’s and they fall in love with someone where they live to get the expert medical care they need? This is the literally the heart of Laura Brienza’s play “Old Love, New Love,” now in its World Premiere run at Luna Stage in West Orange, New Jersey Long known as a developer of brand new plays, Luna is offering a look at a thought-provoking, thorny problem that many of us may soon face. How do we handle something that is nearly completely uncharted territory? Directed with great sensitivity by Nancy Robillard, this show is a must-see for every person who might even think of falling in love.
Gloria (Kim Zimmer) is p*ssed off! She and her daughter Michelle (Claire McClanahan) have just come home from the facility where Gloria’s husband Colin (Thom Molyneaux) has fallen in love with Lane (Jane Mandel), who is another patient at the facility. When Danny (Alfred Gingold) soon visits to start to talk about some of the pain and emotions that Gloria might be sharing, the two families start to bond in a different way. When Michelle learns that her husband Matt (Christopher Halladay) has been unfaithful, she starts to examine what it means to love someone and what an indiscretion does to that love–is it possible to forgive? Perhaps … Forget? Never. And how does one move forward?
Though mother and daughter find themselves in similar positions, life is never that simple. Brienza’s play has been in development with Luna Stage since 2011. The genesis of the play originally was a story about Sandra Day O’Connor, whose husband had developed a paramour while he was in Alzheimer’s treatment, and she was happy for him. Brienza began to explore what that might mean.
Zimmer plays Gloria with a white-hot anger that explodes in expletives. When she starts to interact with Gingold’s Danny, the two of them begin to find their way through their anger to better understand the people their spouses have become, even while they both remember who each of their spouses had been. McClanahan’s Michelle has some different fish to fry … Halladay’s Matt was feeling sorry for himself so he chatted up “Stephanie” and tripped off the straight and narrow. It was one-and-done, but how does Michelle forgive him? Mia (Ava Eisenson) is a nurse and erstwhile grief counselor whose specialty is working with terminal Alzheimer’s patients. She makes their last days comfortable with a great deal of sensitivity and there are a few surprises in store when she begins to work for Michelle and Gloria.
This play covers a whole lot of ground in a very short period of time and it is a play of Moments. There are several scenes that I am replaying in my mind even as I write. Arrive early, not only for the best parking, but also to visit the Context Room, a new feature of Luna plays, where you can learn about the gestation of a play from the spark of an idea to the living, breathing performance as it’s born. Dramaturg Kaitlin Stilwell has done a creative look at a thread that zigs and the path a play takes is enlightening, very different and often far from linear.
“Old Love, New Love” only runs through May 8. Plan to attend on April 21 if you like talkbacks with the cast. Take in this show with someone you love and get tickets now at www.lunastage.org
for this season and for the newly announced upcoming season!