Steve Little opens his one man show with a simple tale: An elderly man goes to the village shaman to complain of general aches and pain. The shaman first asks, “When did you stop singing?” followed by “When did you stop dancing?”
Little’s vignettes stress one simple truth: joy is a matter of the heart, not the brain. Through over 1,000 performances at homes for the elderly, Little has learned much about how music can be key in showing and eliciting joy and bringing back emotions from long ago. Even the most affected members of the “dementia ward” can be reached, respond and forever changed through music.” Little brings forth many memorable characters: one is a very elderly demented lady who goes from silence and depression to a wild dancer making moves on him over the course of two performances. Another occupant of his world goes from “being on death’s door” to warbling for a full day for the appreciative audience in the floor common room before passing away that same night.
Little should be commended for the fullness of his vignettes, his spot-on lyrics, use of puppets (designed by Ingrid Crepeau), and his changing movements and voice to fill our imagination about the characters to whom we are being introduced. Whether it be twisted covers of doo-wop or his own compositions, each song fit seamlessly into the performance. His use of thoughtfully dressed puppets, desinged by Ingrid Crepeau, helps the audience observe each characters personality and presentation.
My only quibble is that it was difficult to know that Little was asking us to accompany him on his journey from performing for those in “assisted living” to reaching the “dementia ward.” On his journey, Little discovers that, even as our body deteriorates, there remains a strong spark within each of us. By the next performance, the audience should see a prelude introducing Little’s path of discovery before taking even the first step of the journey.
Dementia Melodies: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over plays through July 25, 2013 at Caos on F – 923 F Street NW, in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to the show’s Capital Fringe page.