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Theatre Review: Blackberry Winter Conveys Challenges For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Charr Crail

Amy Resnick stars in Blackberry Winter at Capital Stage.

Charr Crail

Sacramento’s Capital Stage is premiering a play about Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a quietly told piece, with moments of unexpected wit and humor, inside a story about a debilitating illness.

Talk about a conundrum. “Blackberry Winter” is a memory play about a disease that takes all memory away.

It's a serious topic, to be sure. But in this play, the story’s related in an engaging, conversational and disarmingly honest way that quickly catches your sympathy and interest. And unlike many plays about illness, this story is told by the caregiver –- a daughter, trying to help her increasingly forgetful mom, who’s moved into an assisted living facility.

Actress Amy Resnick brings an artfully written monologue to three-dimensional life, nonchalantly making the everyday desperation compelling and believable.

Resnick, as the daughter, chooses the mother's living facility carefully.

“It looks like a really nice Residence Inn. Not one of those middle of the road affairs, but one of those deluxe Residence Inns, that you wander into every once in a while, and think to yourself, ‘Wow, I really lucked out… A place with real plants. Not silk plants. Real, well-tended healthy plants, and hot coffee, and side tables with magazines in perfect rows….”

Hear the humor and the fine detail?

It’s remarkable acting, and Resnick rarely raises her voice as she fleshes out the urgent absurdity of daily life.

Whenever she takes her mom shopping, her mom -– who is never seen on stage, buys her another scarf -- unable to recall that she’s given her daughter dozens of scarves already. Resnick displays a huge stack of scarves with a sigh –- it tickles your funny-bone and breaks your heart at the same time. And the daughter’s enormous dedication and her weariness and frustration seep through in dribs and drabs.

“I don’t drink. But lately, I have become jealous of people who do," recites Resnick.

It’s a funny line, but not a cheap one, because it’s oh-so-true. I’ve never seen a play that does a better job conveying the challenge of being a caregiver, knowing that your loved one will only get worse. And yet she carries on, determined to help in whatever way she still can.

She’s brave, even heroic in a way. And that gives this thoughtful play a counterintuitive uplift, something that makes this quietly told show very compelling and authentic in the end.

Check this one out, because it’s really rather special.