At Soul Rep Theatre Company, DOT by Colman Domingo leads with heart and humor
DOT by Colman Domingo, currently playing at Soul Rep Theatre Company, tells the story of the Shealy family at Christmas. The play highlights the family’s matriarch, Dotty (‘Dot’) as she struggles with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Visiting for the holidays, her family swirls around her and secrets are revealed, old issues arise, and personal dreams are expressed. DOT exemplifies the family holiday story.
Playwright Colman Domingo is an Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, and Drama League Award nominee, and after seeing DOT, I understand why. His play is a sophisticated, layered, family comedy that hits all the right notes. The story feels close to home with its authentic portrayal of a contemporary American family and will tug at your heartstrings with authenticity.
Directed by Soul Rep Theatre Company’s Co-Founder and Managing Director Anyika McMillan-Herod, this production of DOT is heartwarming, funny, and human thanks to its strong cast and precise direction.
As the play opens, we meet Shelly. The oldest daughter in the Shealy family, Shelly is frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired of being the primary caretaker for her mother. Actress Renee Miche’al brings levity, humor, and surprising vulnerability to the role. In an effort to alleviate some of her own stress, Shelly has hired an in-home caretaker, Fidel. Played by Satchel Victory, Fidel offers an unexpected pertinency to the script. Victory’s portrayal of the role is sensitive, funny, and truly heart-opening.
Jackie, the long-lost neighbor and childhood friend of the Shealy family has returned to her old neighborhood. Played by Brandy McClendon Kae, Jackie offers the perspective of past mistakes, old family issues, and the “what could have been” often found in one’s life journey. In the role, McClendon transforms the bitterness of the past into a tender sweetness. She delivers her character’s uncomfortable truths hilariously.
As the married homosexual couple, Adam and Donnie, actors Yusef Miller and Sergio Antonio Garcia are unified as their characters struggle through mid-life expectations. As Donnie, Miller seems soft-spoken at first, but as the story progresses, Donnie’s revelations make a lot of sense thanks to Miller’s grounded approach. Donnie’s revealing moments are things we all struggle with, and I found Miller graceful. As Adam, Garcia is everyone’s favorite brother and son-in-law – he’s funny, he’s sensitive, and he acts as an accepting bridge between the siblings and Mom.
The youngest sibling, Averie, played by Jaquai Wade Pearson, is a budding television and YouTube star. With this character, playwright Domingo offers the youngest child family/sibling dynamic in a fresh way. As Averie, Pearson is bright and sparkling. She nails the comic timing and when her character takes actions of leadership in the family, we are reminded why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
As the play’s namesake, Dot, Catherine Whiteman offers a heartbreaking and authentic portrayal of the effects of Alzheimer’s. Personally, I thought of my grandmother who also had the destructive disease. I found some of Dots’ moments difficult to watch, and felt a lot of emotions arise, but that’s because Whiteman’s delivery of the role is so authentic. Whiteman bravely embraces the challenging role with gentleness and ease.
DOT isn’t your fluffy holiday play. It tackles family dynamics, generational issues, and current events with exacting intelligence, humor, and a ton of love. Director McMillan-Herod leads the production with heart and clarity. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll remember why you love your people. The play is hopeful and inspirational. It cradles, as Jackie would say, “the kind of love you fight for.”
DOT by Colman Domingo is playing at Soul Rep Theatre Company through December 22, 2019. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3 PM at the South Dallas Cultural Center 3400 S. Fitzhugh Avenue, adjacent to Fair Park.