None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
— Read from a poster
Dr. Nicki Joy Monti is a therapist with deep seated issues of her own regarding her aging mother Caroline. She goes to her weekly sessions with her therapist (A. Russell Andrews plays it cool from start to finish) where they both take notes on their meeting. In therapy, the goal is to get to the bottom on what is making the person do what they are doing and stop it, gradually. Many tears are shed. In her sessions, she goes back and forth from recalling her childhood with Caroline to being a vulnerable young woman to finally being in a healthy relationship. Nicki thinks of Caroline but not fondly. Caroline was no June Cleaver, more like Roseanne Connor. Her biological father wasn’t around but she had her stepfather David (the talented Michael Matthys). Unfortunately, David is too busy being Caroline’s enabler. How Nicki survived with all these constant negative influences, gives the rest of us hope that salvation can happen. Dr. Monti was once Nicki Joy on again/off again actress. In her younger years, she auditioned, moved out, found a sexy bad boy in José (Wasim No’Mani who is the perfect eye candy to behold), to have wild sex with, she leaves and studies psychology. José is what Grammy-award singer Sheryl Crow would consider to be Nicki’s “favorite mistake.” Tall and gorgeous this man is nice tall, chilled glass of lemonade. Too bad the lemonade turned sour when he starts abusing Nicki.
After many years of therapy, opening her own practice and a fabulous marriage to Konrad (a wonderful John Moskal), Nicki and Caroline come to an understanding of sorts. Nicki travels to New York where Caroline is in a living assisted facility suffering from dementia. The staff reached out to Nicki because Caroline has become more difficult in recent months. The once powerful advertising executive can barely recognize her daughter. But, she’s still as feisty as ever. In a session with her therapist, Nicki gets her “a-ha” moment and tells him, “I am my mother’s daughter, but I’m not my mother.” She gets it and can move forward.
Dramaturg and director Diana Wyenn hits on every emotional point with this gut-wrenching play. It’s hard to see older parents age and fight against their new path in life which is depending on others to do almost everything for them. It’s difficult for the parents to admit they need the help and it’s equally difficult for the children to make time in their busy lives, work and their own family, to find someone who is willing to put up with combative parents. It’s easy to dislike Caroline. She’s moody, annoyed and uncomfortable. Lauren Campedelli is wonderful as Caroline. She has the swag, the attitude and the class in portraying the hard-nosed, yet misunderstood fallen matriarch. She was once at the top of her field now she’s reduced to decide either to have oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. Not the sort of decisions she made when she was a powerful executrix. But, it’s not her fault. She got older. These things happen and will continue because it’s supposed to occur. This is the new normal. You might as well accept and live with it. Monti is damn glorious as the daughter who loves her mother but is conflicted with their troublesome relationship. Their bond remains in tatters but healing is a definite possibility. A poignant ending to a heart jerking story filled with emotion and heart.
Becoming Human ended its short run on Sunday, August 6th at the McCadden Theartre, located at 1157 N. McCadden Place.