Who among us does not desire to see our parents live well into old age? It is what we wish for them. It is what we wish for ourselves.
But one thing we can never quite prepare ourselves for is the reality that often comes with aging: a slowing of the body, atrophy of the senses, illnesses and, ultimately…
In the play, “Maid’s Door,” writer Cheryl L. Davis tells the heartbreaking story of a family dealing with an aging parent—a topic that is oft avoided, whispered about. Until finally, the reality of it begins to… scream.
“Maid’s Door,” is directed by Jackie Alexander and is playing now at the Billie Holiday Theatre.
“Maid’s Door” tells the story of Betty, played by Melissa Joyner, and her mother Ida, played by Scottie Mills. Betty is a successful lawyer who lives in New York with her husband Case, played by Nate James, and her daughter Sarah, played by Joan T. Anderson.
We witness Betty’s unraveling as she slowly comes to the realization that her mother— the strength and the rock of the family—is confronting the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The play is set in present-day New York City on the Upper West side. Betty’s family has just moved into a new house not far from where Ida worked as a maid and when Betty was still a child.
In fact, the house was constructed very similar to the one in which Ida worked and took care of the Lewis family, including a mysterious “extra door”– the same one where Ida could go and come unseen– known back then as “the maid’s door.”
The similarity of her daughter’s new home to the one where she worked seems to have triggered something in Ida– a series of flashbacks to the time in her life when she sacrificed her own family’s needs to take care of another.
But as the story progresses, Ida’s flashbacks increase, as well as the guilt she’s repressed over the years. Soon, we understand that her flashbacks are not so much a gentle reflection of her past, but more so a growing state of confusion that has rendered her unable to distinguish between past and present.
The skillful way in which the play’s writer, Davis, shows us Ida’s progressive undoing, allows the audience to experience Ida and her illness without judgment.
Also, because of the play’s quick and frequent switches between present and past (Remember: We’re following a person’s stream of thoughts in which memory and consciousness have no divide), some of the actors played more than one role, while at times switching between characters within seconds.
Code-switching as a one-man show is hard enough. But pulling off such a thing with several characters on stage at once requires Alexander’s practiced directing and a masterful coordination on the part of the actors, and costume and set designers. But they pulled it off.
As the lead character, you could say Mills stole the show. And some might argue, she absolutely did.
But really, every actor on stage brought something individually phenomenal and unique: Nicola D’Alessandro, who played three characters, was incredible, versatile and a highly skilled actor.
James—who played Case— exuded a stage confidence that was refreshing. And his timing was spot-on;
And Joyner’s big moment in the play, when she broke down after finally accepting her mother’s deterioration, left not a single dry eye in the theatre.
“Is this going to happen to you too mom? Is this going to happen to me?” asked a tearful Anderson, who played Sarah, Betty’s teenage daughter.
That question represented one of the most important moments in the play, as it was the unifying wringer for everyone in the theater. And how was it answered?
(Go see the play!)
“Maid’s Door,” is a touching, soul-stirring play for the entire family: It is a must-see drama that will at once touch your heart and also give you enormous strength.
“Maid’s Door” is playing now through March 30, at the Billie Holiday Theatre, located at 1368 Fulton Street. Tickets are $25. To purchase tickets, go here.