“A Lady Is Waiting” at the cell – A Twentieth Century Salon (Closed September 29, 2013)

September 29, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
By Anto Nolan
Directed by Laurence Lowry
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

There are at least fifty ways to leave your lover – or your spouse (Paul Simon). Doris’ newfound friend suggests the forgive-and-forget approach, the time-to-move-on mantra. Doris takes a more direct approach, as might her deceased aunt Claire: Doris burns the house down when she discovers her husband Joseph, Sr. left her for her newfound friend’s male fiancé. This decision landed her in hospital until she recovered from her burns and later in sanatorium for obvious reasons.

Doris (Fiana Toibin) recounts the house-warming event after disclosing her circuitous route to the sanatorium from childhood through marriage to the present as she awaits the arrival of Joseph, Jr. who is apparently coming to pick her up and take her home. As she rustles through her suitcase, Doris eventually discloses that she has been institutionalized for two years and practically abandoned by her two adult sons – in fact; one of them, Joseph Jr., was the one who signed her into the facility from which she envisions no escape.

Broadway veteran Fiana Toibin chomps down onto Anto Nolan’s script and does not release it until she has found every dramatic morsel it contains: her brilliant performance manages to cull even more than might be evident in the writing. She gives the audience a Doris who, like her forebears institutionalized by husbands for “hysterical” behavior (like crying after breaking a plate), has been warehoused for being “overly emotional.” Her discovery that her husband is gay is just the last in a string of events that have left her demoralized, unappreciated, and starving for unconditional and non-judgmental love.

Doris’ family might not come to pick her up any time soon but audiences would come back non-stop to see Ms. Toibin command the small stage at the cell (or any stage) with her remarkable blend of craft, honesty, and humor.