I was sitting with my sister at our uncle’s visitation when Great Aunt Roberta sidled up to us. A determined then-91-year-old, she arrived in style wearing a fire-engine red knit suit. I kept stealing surreptitious glances at her oddly rectangular mouth–that is, until my mother informed me that she had recently stopped wearing her teeth. Roberta eased herself into a chair, gave us a mischievous look, and started to talk about our grandmother, Frances. “She wasn’t always so proper, you know. In fact, she used to be quite snippy when she was young. Always had a retort ready, that one.” Clearly, she was thrilled with such a perfect opportunity to corrupt our perceptions of her sister. Just as she was hitting her stride my grandmother arrived on the scene, cutting her off mid-sentence. “We used to call her–” Roberta sat up quickly and assumed a suspiciously innocent expression, monitoring my grandmother closely until she was out of earshot. Then she leaned in close and her face cracked into a wicked grin. Crowing triumphantly, she proclaimed: “We used to call her Lemon Tongue!”
There were many factors influencing my decision to direct this particular play. I admire the playwright and her contributions to theatre, I am intrigued by the experimental nature of the Open Theatre and its use of improvisational techniques, I secretly want to play all the roles myself (but don’t tell the actors); here is where you can insert all the usual components that draw people into particular niches. However, the first thing that came into my mind when I read The Gloaming, Oh My Darling was the above story. I got to thinking about the various octogenarians in my life and how much these people have taken aging in stride, turning it into a humorous process rather than something fearsome or inconvenient. When Lemon Tongue loses a word and replaces it with a description (i.e. “second head of hair” in place of “wig”) she deals with the frustration by laughing it off. Nothing Roberta says will stop me from being impressed. All pretenses aside, these–and Megan Terry’s use of humor to address the dark side–are the factors that drew me toward this quirky play. I have a growing concern for our society’s fear and rejection of age, and I know many young people who spend very little time around older people. Some avoid it entirely. If “the personal is political”, this is my small personal step toward changing that. My goal is that everyone will leave this production thinking about older relatives or friends, and hopefully making light of their relationships with those people.