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Weathervane‘s ‘Waverly Gallery’ ‘excellent production’

11/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Brian Jackson (Daniel Reed) and Harriet DeVeto (Gladys Green) star in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of “The Waverly Gallery.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — “I know everybody has to get old.” This line from Weathervane Playhouse’s production of the “The Waverly Gallery” establishes the tone for the play. Everybody gets old, but how does each person age? Some are fortunate to age well; others age painfully.

The show is running in Weathervane’s John L. Dietz Theater through Nov. 16.

Playwright Kenneth Lonergan is known for his writing and acting on stage and film. “The Waverly Gallery” opened off Broadway in 2000.

As the play opens, “80-something” Gladys Green (Harriet DeVeto) shows early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, she continues to run her art shop, the Waverly Gallery, in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. A retired lawyer, she enjoys the flexibility of opening her shop when she wants to work and leaving the gallery closed when she wants to stay at home. 

Don Bowman (Scott Davis) arrives in New York with an automobile filled with portfolios of his paintings. Charmed by him, Gladys agrees to hang some of his art for sale in the gallery.

Gladys has a daughter, Ellen Fine (Sue Jeromson), who cooks dinner for Gladys once a week. Howard Fine (Scott Shriner), Ellen’s husband, and a grandson, Daniel Reed (Brian Jackson), round out the small family.

The family and Don are supportive of Gladys as she takes the long, bumpy slide through Alzheimer’s toward death. However, they are frustrated by the annoying characteristics of her mental deterioration. Gladys, too, is frustrated by her decline. She often asks, “What’s happening to me?” This formerly intelligent woman cannot understand what her family tells her. She starts to lose her short-term memory and jumbles any memory she might have retained.

DeVeto commands the stage with her sure work as the confused Gladys. DeVeto makes her work in this show seem easy. Note how often she repeats lines and how often she changes conversation topics without a transition. DeVeto’s performance vividly displays the mental degeneration of her character. This slow and steady decline is the sign of good writing and superior acting.

DeVeto is surrounded by a quartet of excellent performers. Jeromson’s Ellen displays great warmth and kindness toward her mother and suddenly explodes, not in anger, but in a soul-searing frustration. 

Daniel Reed, Gladys’ grandson, lives near her and takes the brunt of her decline with her calls every two or three hours through the night. He shows love and anger braided together. 

Howard Fine shows great affection for both his wife and mother-in-law. But, he, too, is helpless to do anything except signal his support of his wife and mother-in-law.

This script doesn’t have a bad guy. The evil villain is Alzheimer’s. Each character fights the disease as best he or she can. Yet, everyone knows Alzheimer’s will win the battle.

Director Michael Rupert deserves much of the credit for the success of “The Waverly Gallery.” Rupert is a three-time Tony Award-nominee and Tony Award-winner for supporting actor in a musical for “Sweet Charity” in 1986. He directed “Breaking the Code” in Weathervane’s 2010-11 season. As a composer, he wrote “3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down,” which was performed at Weathervane a few seasons back.

This is an excellent production — well written, well directed and well acted.

For ticket information, call 330-836-2626. Remember the Dietz Theater is Weathervane’s intimate theater, with only 48 seats. 


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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