David Treadwell, submitting to the Times Record

Eleemosynary: A World of Many Layers

Eleemosynary: 1. Charitable; of or for charity or alms; 2. A word rarely heard except at spelling bees; 3. A hauntingly human piece of writing crafted by Lee Blessing.

The set is stark in its simplicity. Three chairs. Three stands. Three glasses of water.

Three actors take their seats to read their parts, portraying three generations of women – Dorothea, the eccentric (okay, wacky) grandmother; Artie, Dorothea’s daughter, a brilliant scientist, ever trying to escape Dorothea’s force; and Echo, the teenage spelling champion who appreciates her grandmother’s weirdness and bemoans her own mother’s inability to be there for her.

The 74-minute reading bares many raw emotions: anger, frustration, bitterness, hurt and vulnerability. At the same time, one can sense the love each character feels for the other two, almost in spite of themselves. They want to distance themselves, to be sure, but they can’t and they don’t. The bonds remain deep and strong.

All three actors do a wonderful job portraying the dynamic interplay between three strong bright independent women: Susan Goodwillie Stedman as Dorothea, Elise Voigt as Artie and Rowan Carroll-Christopher as Echo. But Susan Stedman deserves special praise for her spot-on portrayal of a woman who thought it was perfectly reasonable to put wings on her eight-year-old daughter and force her to jump from a great height to “fly” or to try to teach her three-month-old granddaughter to talk and read. 

Before the reading, Griff Braley, Heartwood’s extraordinary Director, suggested to audience members that it was okay if they closed their eyes during the play and just listened to the words, imagining that they were listening to the radio. Whether your eyes are open or shut, you will be transported by Eleemosynary, a reading which reveals the magical complexities and deep yearnings of the human spirit.


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