Who would ever think an elderly Irish woman and a South African emigree would ever have anything in common, let alone become friends? For these two in THE MY WAY RESIDENTIAL, they find sources of comfort in each other as they explore their different walks of life.
The Irish Theatre’s Home for the Elderly
With underlying motives, Londoner Catherine has decided to put her Irish born and bred mother, Willa, in an assisted living home called The My Way Residential. Stubborn and hard-headed, Willa is already at odds with her situation and tries every which way to be as disagreeable as possible. Much to her dismay, she’s not getting out of the home anytime soon.
However, one person in the home makes her time there more enjoyable. Enter Byron. A South African native, Bryon came to London after losing his family in a tragic accident and now works as a caregiver at The My Way Residential.
Though their first impressions of each other weren’t the greatest, the two form a fast friendship despite their differences and learn how family can be found outside of the usual places.
Competing Characters & Storylines
There are two storylines that vie for our attention. Willa tries to cope with her new living situation, but we delight in her budding friendship with Byron. Simultaneously, Catherine is ditching her husband more and more often for her lover under the premise of visiting her mother in her new home.
Catherine, played by Carolyn Kruse, is a one note character as it feels like she’s written to be a stereotypical soap opera villain (all she’s missing is the twirling mustache). We have conflicting emotions about her throughout the show about how we should perceive her character.
Our emotions are invested in Willa and Byron (played by Belinda Bremner and Terry Bell, respectively) as they learn about and discover their kindred spirits in each other. Bremner is a hoot as she grumpily refuses to play by any of the home’s rules. Bell is endearing as a caregiver and tries to do his best making Willa comfortable. They quickly bond over the residence director’s awful treatment of the residents and her run of the nursing home. The two become inseparable - Byron even comes in on his day’s off just to spend time with Willa!
Emotional Peaks and Valleys
From this writer's perspective, as we switch back and forth between Catherine and Willa, the story becomes disjointed. It’s tough to remain completely engaged one way or another. There are also some abrupt emotional changes where tempers flare too quickly or the mood becomes too somber too fast. In these switches, we feel startled and taken out of the moment.
THE MY WAY RESIDENTIAL really comes together in the latter half of the show. We’ve cemented Willa and Byron’s friendship on the surface, but their relationship forms a deeper bond when they offer each other support in the ways they need it most.
THE MY WAY RESIDENTIAL might not be for theatre-goers looking for a fast-paced, action packed drama with multi-faceted characters. However, it’s good for anyone looking for a lighter show with some comedic and touching moments throughout.
Now through June 25
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
The Den Theatre
1331 N Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.