Through October 7, Performance Network, Ann Arbor”s best-kept theatrical secret, is featuring “Taking Leave,” a play by Nagle Jackson. “Taking Leave” is the story of a man”s struggle with Alzheimer”s disease and the impact it has on his relationship with his three daughters. This high-powered drama is based on Shakespeare”s “King Lear.” The set, although small, was well-utilized and takes great length to reconstruct the abode of a retired professor. Several books line the bookshelves and the expensive-looking furniture conveys the social status of the characters. Much planning undoubtedly went into the concealment of the entrances and exits. Double-hinged doors lead to bedrooms, the kitchen and the outside world, and a staircase was also included on the stage.
The lighting fit the mood of each scene well. The costumes of the characters were appropriate and eye-catching. Especially interesting was Cordelia”s bohemian ensemble. It appropriately clashed with her sister”s more conservative and business-like attire, and was one of the many metaphors subtly referred to in the story.
Roy K. Dennison gave a touching performance as the eccentric main character, Eliot Pryne. The wild look of a man in a strange world never seems to leave his eyes. The audience cannot help but sympathize with him when he runs out the door in the nude or during the scene in which he sits in his chair listening as his daughters argue over his care. The pathos is especially poignant when his “real self,” played by Robert Grossman, leaves his side, in an engrossing, “heavenly” scene.
The young actresses: Kelly Pino, Sarah Kamoo and Inga R. Wilson, who play the three daughters, are not one in the same. Each character is fully formed, distinct and brimming with her own eccentricities. The audience is left with a window into the minds of each daughter and is unusually satisfied by the conclusion. For example, Alma”s character seems to come together in the line by Eliot 1, “You were happiest young.”
Grossman seems to be made for the role of Eliot 1. The humor he finds even in the stark obvious carries many of the more difficult scenes, as he becomes a much-needed mediator between the murky motives of the characters and the audience.
There is only a portion of the play that was cause for reservation. Although it was well performed, and was a touching love story of some sort, most of its appeal will undoubtedly lie with the older generation who are experiencing the departure of their young adult children and even adult children.
The new generation will not as readily sympathize with this story, but will still probably find it moving and inspirational.