dinner theatre

Dinner Theatre

It seems like every time I visit my mother I arrive during a meal, usually dinner. My mom always asks me to pull up a chair to the table and eat, offering to share her plate of food with me, but I always feel as though I will interrupt the normal ritual with this little intrusion. There is something comforting in such daily routines, especially for people suffering from dementia, and I don’t want to throw off the carefully cultivated dynamic at the dinner table. I prefer to sit to the side and watch the scene unfold with the interplay of all the characters, both comic and tragic at the same time. It is truly dinner theatre. I have never tried to write a play, but I see these nightly meals as a never-ending dramatic production, filled with all the heartbreak and laughs of any gut wrenching performance. If, as Shakespeare wrote so many centuries ago, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, then the Deer Hill Care Home dinner play might look something like this.

. . .

Cast of Characters

Mary . . . . .   woman with Alzheimer’s, walks with a cane, early seventies but looks much older
Barbara. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . woman with a spinal injury, confined to a wheelchair, late eighties
Ted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  man with advanced Alzheimer’s, has difficulty walking, early eighties
Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . man with Parkinson’s, confined to a wheelchair, mid eighties
Bert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . man with nerve damage and palsy, confined to a wheelchair, mid eighties
Barbie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . woman with Alzheimer’s, walks with a cane, late eighties
Mirna . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Filipino woman with strong accent, caretaker, mid thirties
Jun  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Filipino man, head caretaker, mid forties

TIME: 4:30 sharp on any given night

SETTING: The elderly residents are seated around a large dinner table, each wearing colorful matching bibs, while the caregivers bring plates filled with hot dogs, potato salad, and steamed broccoli.

MIRNA: Bert, I have a hotdog sandwich for you. [MIRNA tries to give it to BERT]

BERT: I don’t want a sandwich.

BARBARA: It’s a hotdog, Bert. [yelling across the table]

BERT: Huh?

MIRNA: Bert, it is a hotdog sandwich. Here, take it. [MIRNA places it in BERT’S shaky hand]

BERT: I’d rather have a hamburger. [Begins eating with his eyes closed but looks disappointed.]

[JUN turns music on, Frank Sinatra station on Pandora. I Get A Kick Out Of You plays.]

TED: [Singing along with song.] Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all, so tell me why should it be true that I get a kick out of you?

JUN: Ted, you know all the words. [Places a plate of food in front of TED]

TED: What’s that?

JUN: You remember all the words to the song, Ted.

TED: No, what’s that? [Points at the plate of food.]

JUN: It’s your dinner, Ted.

TED: Oh.

BARBARA: Ted, you have such a nice voice, keep singing.

TED: What was that now?

BARBARA: I really enjoy your singing. Keep going.

TED: If you say so. [TED doesn’t keep singing, but stares at his plate in silence.] (more…)

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