Wandering somewhere be-tween black comedy and melodrama, Morris Panych's Auntie and Me explores loneliness in modern society. "Auntie" Grace (Stephanie Weaver) suffers the fate of so many old people today – struggling to live independently until the independence makes your family forget you. It's a sort of inverted abuse by friends or relatives, and the only thing worse is having no friend or relatives left to abuse you. What little Auntie has left is her nephew Kemp (T. Robert Pigott), who is alone partly by choice and partly because he seems borderline psychotic.

Together they are much stronger than alone, but just barely.

As the story begins, Kemp gets a letter from his dying aunt Grace, and he shows up on her doorstep with suitcase in hand. Much to his dismay, she's not on a tight schedule to see Jesus, leaving Kemp to feed her pudding and say the kind of horrible things that most of us only think about saying.

Vaguely employable, he left an unpromising career pushing paper at an S&L, and now he finds himself staring out the window at the world, annoyed at Auntie for disrupting his otherwise boring existence. There's no other family, not much money, and Auntie didn't even bother to collect the sort of junk you might sell as antiques. She's just … there.

Perched up on a second-floor set, Kemp makes Auntie's life miserable but interesting. He tries ant poison in the pudding, an electrocution/blow-to-the-skull machine, a noose and even the feared Creepy Guy Look, but to no avail. Auntie holds on, and Kemp delivers a near monologue in this string of small vignettes. Time passes slowly for him, but zips along for us – rear-projected shadows on the wall indicate the passing of seasons, aided by crowd noises on the street below. Kemp stays put, since he has nearly all the lines and can't even go out for New Year's Eve. It's Pigott's monologue, and we are nearly at the end of the first act before Weaver gets her first line, a plaintive "Merry Christmas." Bless her failing heart. Fortunately actor Pigott is up to the task, maintaining a tight pace and almost flawless delivery in the face of a nearly bed-ridden partner.

Kemp longs for a gift, and Auntie eventually makes him a sweater, but her near-mute status conveys nothing to enlighten his life. His rants clearly intimidate her; yet, she's thankful for the visit. It's all you can hope for sometimes.

More by Al Pergande


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