The Waverly Gallery, Pegasus Players. Sticking his neck way out with this 2001 Pulitzer finalist, playwright Kenneth Lonergan audaciously suggests over the course of two hours that Alzheimer’s is really, really bad. It drives feisty gallery owner Gladys right around the bend and makes her family feel god-awful. It doesn’t, however, lead to moral or ethical complications; instead, in the fine tradition of disease-of-the-week TV movies, Lonergan delivers hand-wringing, head-hanging, and brow-furrowing.
Which isn’t to say The Waverly Gallery is unaffecting. Although the playwright rambles through the first act, unable to distinguish between idle chatter and meaningful drama, during the second act he creates a compelling portrait of a family in crisis. Under Susan Padveen and Jeff Ginsberg’s direction, Judith Hoppe turns in a harrowing, heartbreaking performance as Gladys, never playing the character’s dementia but instead her desperate attempts to hang on to reality and to mask her increasingly unsuccessful efforts from those around her. Laurie Larson as Gladys’s daughter and Benjamin Montague as her grandson avoid the slightest hint of melodrama, keeping their emotions under tight guard.
But there were sniffles aplenty in the audience the night I attended, so if you’d like a good cry head over to Pegasus. Meanwhile Lonergan will probably be writing next about childhood leukemia, hoping for a Nobel.