Friday, May 27, 2016

"Emily Linder" at Taproot Hits the Funny Bone as Well as the Heart

Charity Parenzini and Laura Kenny in The Realization of Emily Linder (John Ulman)

The Realization of Emily Linder
Taproot Theatre
Through June 11, 2016

Emily Linder has had a realization. She’s going to die in a couple of days. She tells her daughters, who have mixed feelings of belief, and demands that they plan her funeral. But she tells them exactly what she wants to have at the funeral, including helium balloons!

So begins the current play, The Realization of Emily Linder, at Taproot Theatre. Playwright Richard Strand includes a lot of contemporary stressors of families: elder care issues, managing illness, losses of spouses in later life, adult children coping with aging parents, sibling rivalry and more.

Now, this is no shrinking violet of a mother. Mrs. Linder, played with gravelly glee by Laura Kenny, is strong-willed, domineering, demanding and a huge pain in the ass. It’s a wonder her daughters (played by Helen Harvester and Charity Parenzini) are still there to help her when she is confined to a wheelchair and has just lost her toes to her disbelief in doctors and hospitals.

In fact, she’s also just fired her last caregiver, and is about to fire the one Janet (Harvester) brings in the door, Jennifer (Annelih GH Hamilton), until Jennifer finds a unique way to overcome Emily’s resistance. We just know that Jennifer knows her way around cranky elders!

Janet and Margaret (Parenzini) try mightily to accommodate their mom’s wishes for her funeral, though Janet starts to refer to it as a “party” instead. But old sibling tropes come up as they trade tasks or work their way through the list. And the clock ticks ever closer to Emily’s “realized” deadline.

The play has a great deal of humor. Kenny has always had a natural instinct for where a joke lands and so land them she does. Even when she is being her meanest, the audience can tell that she is frustrated and really loves her children. This is part of the charm that Kenny brings to the role. It is quite possible a different actor could make the audience hate her!

Harvester and Parenzini do a nice job of being supportive but put-upon daughters and rivals. Hamilton is wonderful as the take-charge caregiver who knows exactly how to wind her charge around her finger.

Though it will make many identify with their own lives, the humor masks the pain, and the open question, “Is Emily right?” keeps the audience guessing until the end. This is a heart-warming slice of family life that makes it clear they love each other deeply. Even if no one says it at all.

It’s a tight-knit cast and a fun, suspenseful ride. Watch Kenny, a Seattle vet of many stages, run her family ragged as only Emily Linder can.

For more information, call 206 781-9707 or go to

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