Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams
A New Play by Terence McNally
59 East 59th Street
Casey Childs: Exec. Producer
Andrew Leynse: Artistic Director
Elliot Fox, Managing Director
Marian Seldes, Don Amendolia, Alison Fraser, Miriam Shor, Darren Pettie, Michael Countryman, RE Rodgers
Director: Michael Morris
Set Design: Narelle Sissons
Costume Design: Laura Crow
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Original Music & Sound Design: Lindsay Jones
Prop Design: R. Jay Duckworth
Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Fight Director: B. H. Barry
Production Stage Manager: Emily N. Wells
Asst. Stage Manager: Talia Krispel
Casting: Stephanie Klapper Casting
Press: OPR/Origlio Public Relations
Director of Marketing: Louis Bavaro
Production Manager: Lester Grant
Production Manager: Lester P. Grant
Associate Artistic Director: Tyler Marchant
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 27, 2005
Set in a dingy upstate vaudevillian theater, with a useful trap door and a large stuffed chair, Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams is at once about the pain of dying and the pain of living. The joy comes from the fantasy of theatre, children’s theatre that is, and Jessie (Alison Fraser) and Lou (Don Amendolia) have received, through a secret bargain, a theatre of their own. The bargain is designed by Annabelle Willard (Marian Seldes), a local philanthropist, in a stage of advanced cancer, and involves her interest in Lou. Jessie’s lover, however, is not the unsuspecting, androgynous Lou, but rather their stage hand, Arnold Chalk (Michael Countryman), also at the opposite end of macho.
To add to this ensemble, we have two characters out of MTV, the rock star daughter of Jessie, Ida Head (Miriam Shor), and her spiked and leathery boyfriend, Toby Cassidy (Darren Pettie). In the final dysfunctional point of light is Edward (RE Rodgers), Annabelle’s body-building driver, who pours martinis on notice and hulks back to soap operas with hunched shoulders and lowered head. In fact, prominent postures with over-the-edge attitude are part of Michael Morris’ effective direction, as McNally’s dialogue, itself, runs slow at times. The high points are saved for Annabelle, as Seldes loses her hair and her passion and her smile and her control to her disease, in one of the most poignant and realistic dramatizations of dying I’ve ever seen.
Arms and legs slung over chairs, characters slipping down trap doors to basement costumes and private rendezvous, body art and body piercings strutted about, and a final fantasy of fairy and furry rabbit all intertwine as a textured and treacherous visual effect. Lost dreams and lingering dreams are exuded with ennui or energy, depending on the moment and the mood. We are the witnesses of the unraveling of life (Anna’s) and love (Arnold’s for Jessie), cast against the tenaciousness of loyalty (Jessie’s for Lou and Edward’s for Anna), and spirit (Lou’s for his theatre, his childhood memory, and the cultural nurturing of children).
We also witness stark generational contrasts, such as the outwardly classy Anna with her raunchy, but pragmatic thinking, cast against the young Ida and Toby, with their raunchy behavior and equally pragmatic thinking (Ida is a highly successful singer, who would buy the theatre for her mother to mend torn fences, and Toby is her full-time attendant, interestingly in not so different a role as Edward’s to Anna.) Yet, Marian Seldes is given the center stage role, strung out on the chair, in dynamic dialogue and dramatic death.
This is not the most riveting of McNally’s plays, but it contains some of the most riveting of moments. Kudos to Marian Seldes.