We’re not invisible. As we age, our bodies get more infirm, trouble getting around. Old age should not be a cultural burden. The next time you see me, I hope you see me.
— Joanna Lipari
Ms. Lipari is my new hero. When I turned 50 last May, I felt my world was falling apart. My health steadily declined. Now, I’m taking more medication than my grandmother. She’s right about the body not moving like it used to and I miss that. Now, the latest thing going on is not being visible to others. I see them, but people either look away or see right through me. I thought I was losing more of my mind. Then, I came across Ms. Lipari’s show and felt a lot better. She made me think about things I rather not. Because you know, it’s damn depressing.
She staggers her way onto the stage wearing a flower-print housecoat, glasses, sporting cool looking spiky grey hair. Then, like Diana Prince, except for the spinning around, she changes into black pants and blouse and a purple crushed velvet sweater.
Her swag is infectious as she recalls moments of her childhood where she seemed more adult than the grown-ups around her. She recalled how she perfected a racetrack made with Legos. Before she had a moment to admire her work, a nun at the Catholic school she attended, fell right on top of her well executed design. Not too discouraged, Lipari quickly thought about another project this time involving her sister Diana and best friend Rhonda. They would make elves and sell them for a quarter a piece. Diana was the Martha Stewart of design at the time and she would make the elves clothes, beard and hat. Lipari considered herself to be a capitalist. She christened her new business the United Elf Workers of America. Then the bottom dropped out. Diana and Rhonda went on strike. After her brief stint as an entrepreneur, Lipari collected her belongings and fled to find another career. She auditioned for the musical production of Grease and immediately fell in love with acting. Lipari knew what she was destined to do. That’s a blessing. Even when she injured herself, she remained persistent and finished the show. Along the way, she discovered an inner strength after reading the 1963 classic, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. She grew up in a time when a woman’s only role model was actress Donna Reed from her titular show, or to become a nurse or teacher, were the only acceptable careers for a woman. Lipari kicked that glass ceiling and emerged on the other side with a passion to lead her own path. After meeting Michael, a junior executive at an advertising agency, think of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning television show Mad Men, they married and adopted a child.
She kept as encouragement a quote from writer Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel, A Farewell to Arms, how, “the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” She laughs now but it wasn’t funny the time her luggage got lost when she went to Palermo in Sicily. She met a couple of gentlemen who spoke no English, but, they managed to understand each other and had a magical night. She referred them as angels who were also stone masons. She said, they gave her hope.
The title refers to a geriatric assessment of which professions are suitable for people who reach a certain age. Lipari prefers to wave the middle finger to the fool who concocted this miserable and unforgiving valuation. She makes it clear she’s not going to take advice from a pamphlet, who, obviously doesn’t know what it is saying. Like her spiky hair, she pokes wide jabs at the hypothesis and does it with style, humor and grace.
Activities of Daily Living plays until Sunday, February 23rd at 2:30 p.m., Saturday afternoon the 22nd at 2:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m. that night, at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, located at 87 Sierra Madre Blvd., in Sierra Madre. For ticket information log on to wwww.sierramadreplayhouse.org or call (626) 355-4318 for reservations.