It might be best to begin your approach to this play by learning how to pronounce the title and understanding the meaning of this vocabulary word. In this dramatic work by Lee Blessing , three generations of highly intelligent and freethinking women attempt to reconcile years of family dysfunction. Dorothea was a repressed housewife and mother of three sons and a daughter, Artemis Artie , whom she favored. She discovered that being an eccentric suited her perfectly and spent a lifetime thrusting her wild ideas and beliefs onto an unappreciative and doubting Artemis.
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Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe. It's a good word, eleemosynary--appropriate to the season, when people are lying in sleeping bags in front of sparkling store windows, lulled to sleep by the tintinnabulation of Salvation Army bells. The word calls to mind the essential goodness, the charity at the heart of this commercialized holiday.
It reminds us of the importance of generosity and simple gifts. In this time of big-budget holiday blockbusters, overladen with special effects and elaborate sets, Interplay's production of Lee Blessing's Eleemosynary dazzles with its simplicity and grace--one of those rare shows that make acting, directing, and writing look incredibly easy. The performers work so seamlessly with the script that we're amazed to realize by the end that in about 90 minutes the show has covered almost 80 years in the lives of three characters.
Eleemosynary is composed mainly of monologues and short scenes that trace the lives of three generations of women. Blessing's script weaves past and present, recalling key incidents and showing the development of each woman's life in relation to the others.
At the beginning we are introduced to Echo Martie Sanders , a young woman seated at the bedside of her grandmother Dorothea Caitlin Hart , who has suffered a stroke. Echo's mother, Artie Pamela Webster , left her long ago and now communicates with her daughter primarily through routine telephone calls, quizzing her for an upcoming spelling bee with tough words like "eleemosynary.
In this first scene we witness an event in the lives of these three women that serves as a beautiful metaphor for the themes of the entire play. Echo is watching a home movie in which Dorothea has fitted Artie with a pair of wings and is trying to teach her to fly.
In this ethereal and humorous scene we learn of Dorothea's overwhelming ambitions and dreams, which she needs to experience vicariously through Artie. Artie in turn must escape Dorothea's domination if she is ever to achieve independence. And Echo establishes her need to fulfill her grandmother's impossible expectations and to justify her existence to the mother who left her.
By isolating the three characters, Blessing allows us to delve deeply into their lives and understand their struggles and emotions. We can understand why Artie decides to leave Echo with Dorothea and disappear for a while, and we sympathize with Echo's desire to prove herself in the national spelling bee. Even Dorothea's obsessions with flight and reincarnation are understandable and credible, given her world of lost dreams and failed expectations.
Blessing never judges his characters or allows us to question their motives; he presents their struggles realistically and makes us accept them for who they are.
Under Dorothy Milne's direction, Eleemosynary is a small gem. The three actresses work beautifully together. Hart is thoroughly believable as Dorothea, capable of showing that character's refusal to quit under the most daunting odds. Webster's Artie is a wonderfully complex character, and Sanders's Echo is a magnificent creation, gliding effortlessly from the age of 1 to This production, performed in Interplay's small studio space, utilizes only three couches and a pair of wings, but we never forget for a moment where we are or what is happening.
The play is marred only by a didactic feel-good ending that literally spells out the meaning of the piece. Otherwise Eleemosynary is simply a marvelous evening of theater.
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THEATER; 'Eleemosynary,' 3 Women and Power of Words
Lee Blessing has written a play about how feminist sensibilities need to resolve a search for independence and the pull of the intellect in a male-dominated world. Lee Blessing has written a play about the power of words to control life and the failure of words to replace feelings. To reinforce one of his points, he has called the play "Eleemosynary," which is a fancy way of saying forgiving or charitable. But, ultimately, Lee Blessing has defeated his own purposes with words, words, words. Since Joe Brancato, the artistic director, can be counted on for offbeat, unheralded plays, it's no surprise to come upon "Eleemosynary" in the Penguin Repertory's 15th season. During its three-week run at the Manhattan Theater Club in , the play won more attention as a vehicle for an esteemed actress, Eileen Heckart, in the role of Dorothea, the grandmother, than as an accomplished piece of playwriting.
Eleemosynary by Lee Blessing- Echo Monologue.docx
After Dorothea who has raised Echo into her teens suffers a stroke, Echo is forced to reestablish contact with her mother through extended phone conversations, during which real issues are skirted and the talk is mostly about the precocious Echos unparalleled success in a national spelling bee. In the end, Artie and Echo come to accept their mutual need and summon the courage to build a life together, despite the terror this holds after so many years of estrangement. I asked him what you were like as a little girl, and he couldnt even say. He remembers Grandma even less. He didnt have one interesting thing to say about her about Grandma. They dont have a single picture or her, either. Not even in their minds.