Goin' to the Club | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Goin' to the Club

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GOIN' TO THE CLUB, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Darlette E. McAlpin is a new playwright, and it shows in this overlong, a little naive, and occasionally contrived work. It also shows in her tenderness toward her subject matter and her courage in tackling the old-fashioned ideal of filial devotion.

The play does a fine job of exploring the terrors of Alzheimer's. Aging jazz musician Lee and his family spend most of the first act trying desperately to understand the quick deterioration of his body and mind. Lee's daughter, Leslie, tries to care for the increasingly erratic old man, as well as her husband and household, while his other daughter, Karen, a med student, seems to have a heart of stone. The turning point in this solidly acted production (directed by Donn Carl Harper) comes when Lee stops trying to understand the disease and gives in to voices from his past. Standing in his living room before dawn, he handles an umbrella as though it were his beloved saxophone, long since pawned.

McAlpin has an ear for dialogue and a keen eye for details. Karen's pushy sense of entitlement, for instance, is just like her father's; and it's wonderful to watch her judge it so harshly in him even as she indulges it in herself. But McAlpin falters when she strays to themes of guilt and responsibility. Once she loses the urge to explain behavior, instead of simply presenting it for the audience to examine on their own, she may make a very capable playwright.

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