The one-act play “Eleemosynary” opens with Dorothea Westbrook, the family matriarch, having a stroke.
“But I don’t want people to think this is a depressing play,” said Alexandria attorney Linda High, who portrays Dorothea in the Elden Street Players performance of the Lee Blessing play that opens at the Industrial Strength Theatre on Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m.
“This is a slice of life,” said High in her eighth ESP performance. “It doesn’t have the standard theatrical arch – an initial incident, conflict and resolution. It’s a memory play,” rife with flashbacks and memories of Dorothea’s life as told by her granddaughter Echo, played by Sterling resident Tara Leigh Moore.
That “Eleemosynary” is a memory play challenged director William Aitken most. Making it clear when time changes is a challenge, said the Alexandria resident. “Getting the actors to rise to the occasion of handling the time changes was the greatest challenge – and they do it extremely well,” said Aitken, a commercial plumber with Plumbing Services, Inc. of Alexandria.
“I’ve been planning this show for three years. I picked it. I liked the conflict in it. You don’t see dialogue and conflict like Blessing writes,” said Aitken.
WHILE THE STORY is told by Echo, the granddaughter, much of the conflict surrounds Echo’s mother and Dorothea’s daughter, Artie, or Artemis, portrayed by Springfield resident Janice Creneti.
“Artie is the archetypal wounded child. She’s paying for the issues of her mother” — issues dealt with throughout the play, said Creneti, a science tutor making her ESP debut appearance. “I’m the new kid on the block,” said Creneti with 12 years of community theater experience.
Dorothea is an eccentric, said High. “She tells a story during the play about her conscious choice to become an eccentric and the effect that choice has on her daughter Artie and Artie’s daughter Echo,” said High.
“I think Artie would like not to be different. She’s extremely intelligent in a society where brilliant women are still threatening. Artie avoids confrontation. She can be cold toward both mother and daughter” — a daughter she abandoned more than once.
WILL ARTIE get to live the life she wants to live is a question resolved in “Eleemosynary.” Will Echo bring about a reconciliation between herself and Artie will also come to a resolution.
Echo’s given name is Barbara, said Moore, a 10-year veteran of community theater, performing in her second ESP show. “Dorothea moves in with Artie to take care of Barbara and renames her Echo. Dorothea wants Echo to reflect the good she can find in others,” said Moore, a marketing communications specialist.
“She’s a combination of mom and grandma — she has Artie’s intelligence and Dorothea’s passion for life. Echo’s main goal is to get the love and attention of her mother that she so desperately craves” — another question that is answered during the play, said Moore. “She already has Dorothea’s acceptance and praise.”
One of the reasons Echo is a sympathetic character is because she is abandoned. She also garners sympathy because “she’s so willing to do whatever it takes to win acceptance and she’s constantly trying to bring her family together,” said Moore.
If there is a message in “Eleemosynary,” “Dorothea says it — ‘we all need forgiveness,’” said Aitken.
“Eleemosynary” opens at the Industrial Strength Theatre at 269 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon on Friday evening, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $10 for students and seniors and can be reserved by calling 703-481-5930 Box 2.