I had to compliment a man at the parking lot of Ralph’s because his tee shirt made me smile. “Doing It” with the Nike emblem discreetly below the words. It was simple, just like its progenitor “Just Do It”.
Doing it is what Nancy Beverly has been up to with her new play “Handcrafted Healing”. She is workshopping the play with her cohorts at Fierce Backbone. Nancy has a quiet and warm presence. She welcomed me and my husband at the door, then later directed us to sit at the chairs on the edge of the stage floor. We hustled with our glasses of wine to the area. I said to Bruno, “I wonder why there is sawdust scattered underneath our chairs.” I studied the ceilings to see if there’s some kind of construction going on and guessed that it was probably leftover from some props being built.
I scanned the stage and liked the simplicity and creativity of the set design. At the back is a window frame hanging in midair, and beneath that a countertop with shelves stacked with a blender, bottles of wine and whisky, a jar of marinara spaghetti sauce, tin cans, a pot, a trash bin and a hammer. Next to the kitchen is a dining table with 3 chairs, and at the forefront is the living room couch with a coffee table that would also serve as a seat for monologues.
The dialogue of the opening scene grabbed my attention quickly with a question by Evie – could we influence the outcome of an event (such as our illnesses and our death)? Whammy! hit me with that hammer. It’s a question that has been asked for generations in different situations. What a hook! In that scene the story opens up with the problem that faces Camm, a furniture builder, who has tumors in her lungs. She and her partner Meredith are embarking on a journey to live with Camm’s cancer.
Camm and Meredith as a couple is wonderful. I enjoyed their relationship and also the individual personalities. Camm is the male with her logical tendencies and attitude towards her illness. She is a furniture builder which is predominantly a male occupation. Meredith is the female with her holistic approach. She works as a teacher. Her nurturing personality never imposes her beliefs nor her practices upon Camm. Instead, she envelops Camm with a deep respect and so much love in every nuance of her words and actions by her presence at the medical appointments, and rearranging her life so that they are together in every step of the journey.
Among the many things that I appreciated in seeing this play is it made me ask myself about my capacity to be there for someone I love who is going through this crisis. I watched my father suffer chemotherapy and radiation when he battled with pancreatic cancer. I watched my mother live through the visits at the different doctors’ offices; the dialysis; the array of bottles filled with toxic medicine; the medical bills; the well-meaning visitors; the blisters on his feet; the sores in his mouth; the peeling skin of his finger tips; the needles (picking, probing, invading); his brooding moments; the storms of his anger; the mashed cantaloupe.
What I learned from that experience in watching my parents go through it together was that I’m made of the same stuff. I have their genes in my own gene pool. And this play exhibits our capacities to survive and live with illnesses.
It shows the litany of events that a couple engages in as they battle against the killer cells that are eating away at the life giving cells. As a couple they grow while they evolve as individuals reaching out to their potentials like the limbs of a tree that rises to meet the elements of wind, sun, air and rain. As individuals they are rooted to one another within their own skins.
Whenever Camm has an encounter with Meredith about the illness, there’s a break in the tension with a release to her subconscious. The play turns inward into Camm’s young adult memories of her relationship with her older brother Gary. She idolized him, and he perhaps influenced her decision to become a furniture builder. Camm has flashbacks to events of her first project – building a treasure chest for her mother who was absent. Her mother was also dealing with her own cancer. Replacing the physical bonds absent in her life, she handcrafts her relationships through her work with the treasure chest. The task asks of her to measure twice then cut the pieces of wood; she has to treat the wood and shape them and sand them before she can bind them together with nails, glue and hinges. Through this she handcrafts her relationship with her mother with the help of her older brother Gary. But Gary’s presence is inconsistent as he too finds his path through his fate.
I wonder what changes will come from the workshopping weekend. The play is already budding beautifully and Nancy is doing it! I can hardly wait for her to reach the point where she can be wearing the words “Did it.”