‘Jalopies’: A touching look at aging, resilience | Theater review
A review of Mark Cherniak’s one-man show, “Jalopies,” at Richard Hugo House through Jan. 20, 2013.
Special to The Seattle Times
By Mark Cherniak. Through Jan. 20 at Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle, $14 (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com)
Mark Cherniak’s one-man show about life in an old people’s home is based on fact, not fiction. Poignant, funny, heartbreaking, it’s a close look at human love and resilience in the worst of circumstances.
Cherniack, who received his graduate degree in social work at the University of Washington and now lives in Port Townsend, worked for 15 years in local facilities for the aged. This show is a distillation of his experiences.
On a stark stage, a stage with no glitz, with just one man assuming the personae of 10 residents in a facility undergoing change, you’ll learn much about what could be in store for many of us.
Each resident is a unique personality. There’s a loving couple, both infirm, one with advanced dementia. A blind but gallant former long-distance runner who now makes do with walks. A 91-year-old Frenchman who takes great pride in thinking no one could ever guess his age. An old lady who acts as the town crier, sitting by the door making note of all comings and goings. A crotchety newcomer whose asides are like George Burns’ quips.
Their peculiarities are singular, but their plight is equally shared.
When a new manager arrives with orders to make sure all the units are bringing in sufficient money, he decides to do it by getting rid of the old “jalopies” (Medicaid tenants) to make room for new models. With obfuscations and half-truths, with distortions and snake oil, he brings about the changes.
Cherniak’s vivid representation of his characters’ gallant response to this heartbreak, their amazing resilience in circumstances beyond their control, will tear at your heartstrings. Thankfully, not all facilities are like theirs.
Nancy Worssam: firstname.lastname@example.org