Creative Cauldron presents Kaleidoscope, a “Bold New Works” World Premiere Musical with Music and Lyrics by Matt Conner and Book and Lyrics by Stephen Gregory Smith, who also co-direct the production. This piece studies the decline of a dementia patient through her lifetime revue as a Broadway star, and the result is poignant and real, with hints of raw laughter and joy where least expected.
Scenic Designer Margie Jervis uses a gold curtain as a backdrop in the intimate blackbox theatre, which is perfect for a show such as this. Centered around a one-woman show, the space demands little scenery besides the stage itself. Lighting plays a bigger part in this show, as designer Lynn Joslin must tackle the nuances of a kaleidoscope; swirling colors and patterns that dance a fine line between beauty and chaos. Symbolism cannot be missed through her use of light and color, which ranges from subtle and sweet to harsh and overwhelming.
Evelyn Thorne (Florence Lacey) often compares her life to a kaleidoscope onstage during her one-woman show, a cabaret in which she reflects on her successful Broadway career. Friendly and warm, Evelyn is lively in her performance of “Find Your Light,” a song about the riches and joy found in a lifetime of theatre. Her anecdotes include a humorous story from her childhood where she woefully misinterpreted the lyrics to the song “Big Daddy” and decided to perform it at her 6th grade talent show – a stunt which she says “won me the talent show, but got me expelled for two weeks.”
Hers is a vivacious and welcoming presence – that is, until you begin to witness her decline into dementia; a process that begins with a few flubbed lines and ends with a woman unrecognizable as the one who proudly stood center stage mere moments before. Her family and staff must find a way to personally adjust to this difficult situation while trying to aid a proud woman who, without knowing it, is slipping through their grasp.
Susan Derry and Catherine Purcell do a fine job as sisters Olivia and Monica, who desperately try and help their mother retrieve and hold onto her precious memories. As Evelyn’s performances become more fractured, they struggle to help her remember numbers such as “Stuck With You,” and voice their exasperation and sadness in the number “Curtain Coming Down.” Young Sophia Manicone brings a lot of depth to the plot as a way of seeing into Evelyn’s mind; from painful childhood memories in the number “Mother Stayed at Home,” to the present time as Evelyn’s granddaughter.
Florence Lacey gives a memorable and truthful performance that at times can almost be difficult to watch. In one moment, she is tottering around the stage almost as a curious child would, plinking the piano keys with wide-eyed excitement and playing with her wardrobe.
In another, she is difficult and harsh, snapping at those around her and making unreasonable demands. This behavior hits close to home to those in the audience who have obviously had to deal with similar circumstances, and there are times when stifled sobs can be heard from the crowd. However, they are not upset – they are overwhelmed with feelings of comfort and understanding. Through story and song, it’s shown that life can be beautiful even in its most challenging moments.
While the subject matter is heavy, it is handled with a lot of care and respect. I would recommend a showing of this to those who have had to walk down the road of dementia with their loved ones for a cathartic experience.
Running Time: 75 minutes, without an intermission.