|Jenny Aldrich as Fanny and|
Don Walker as Gardner
From the start, the family dynamics were painful to watch. Nobody seems able to actually hear what the others are saying. When Margaret shares the news that she is going to have a one woman show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, her parents seem more interested in eating their snack of Goldfish than in sharing in her happiness. When her mother does engage, she talks about how her own mother was the "real talent" in the family, with no apparent concern or understanding of the impact her comments have on Margaret. As the play goes on, we learn that this is only the latest in a long history of interactions that makes us understand why spending time at home might not be Margaret's top choice of places to be.
|Olivia Williamson as|
The play did have some humor, especially when it came to Fanny and Gardner's contemplation of how they'd like to sit for their portrait. Perhaps as the couple in American Gothic? Maybe a Pieta pose? Or how about the Creation of Man? My friend Carolyn and I particularly enjoyed Fanny's reference to dressing up in a black dress and posing like "in that famous Sargent painting." (Carolyn and I are both on the board of the Visual Arts Center and the reference was to John Singer Sargent's painting of the mysterious Madame X. Sargent is the featured artist in the VAC's Fine Arts Festival which will be held in November.)
As the play drew to a close, Fanny and Gardner danced in the foreground as Margaret looked on. The scene perfectly captured their lives as less than a cohesive family unit.
I'm sure that one of the reasons Painting Churches has lingered with me is because I visited my own parents last week to help out while my mom recovered from some knee surgery. We are a much closer family than the Churches -- dysfunctional, I'm sure, but in a wholly different way. But it's a fact that my parents are getting older. And it's also a fact that I'd rather stick my head in the sand and live my own life than help them deal with the issues of aging. Painting Churches was a reminder to me of the importance of family and to appreciate the time that we have together. The trick, of course, is remembering that in the moment when you are driving each other crazy! With a family vacation scheduled for August, I'll get the opportunity to practice.