The Addiction of Matyrdom
Kairos Theatre Company, a new theatre in town, which focues on works “celebrating on the various and multifaceted aspects of the feminine journey” opened an original script Waiting for the Paint to Dry by K.E. Jenkins at 18th and Union, in Seattle’s Central District. It deals with one of the most feminine of all subjects, our tendency to be “Caretakers without Boundaries,” that is to say how caretaking can become unhealthy and destructive.
It could be subtitled “Waiting for the merde to Hit the Fan” as it deals with the breaking point in the relationship between two adult sisters, the younger by ten years a “neurodivergent” adult, who spends her days painting, and the elder, who has given up a career to work at home so she can care for her sister, without any external or internal support. Although there is an occasional babysitter, Vanessa, for the neurodivergent sister, Edith, it has taken a lot of trial and error for Colby, the elder caretaking sister, to be able to find someone suitable to spend time with Edith, just so Colby can have a break and try to date someone she has casually met.
Which introduces the central conflict of the play: How do you begin to have a relationship, when you are the sole caretaker for an adult, who appears to be on the autism spectrum, who has difficulty communicating, violent tendencies and acts like a toddler? This conflict ushers in a more internal conflict for Colby, the caretaker, as she cannot see past her own controlling issues and is addicted to her caretaking role. One the one hand, she loves her sister and embraces her savior role; on the other she deeply resents the restrictions on her own life. The script is like a cauldron bubbling with tensions.
Although the situation is extreme, it poignantly expresses the dilemma of many caretakers, who desperately need to set boundaries but do not realize that they emotionally benefit from their own matyrdom. In fact, for Colby it has become an addiction.
In the press release, Edith is described as “neurodivergent,” which is a term for many neurological disorders, including what is also called “autism spectrum.” From what I can gather (from the internet unfortunately) it is an attempt to categorize these people, in a non-judgmental way, as having different brains. Often these cerebral differences, if properly channeled, involve very specialized skills. Sheldon Cooper, of the Big Bang theory, is a good example. He is socially inept and has tunnel vision, but like other scientists, mathematicians, artists and inventors his rare skills are highly useful to society.
Edith has a bit of this, as she can calculate complicated mathematical equations rapidly in her head. The broader implications of “neurodivergency” as a social issue, was not developed in the script, but perhaps it may be in another. Seattle is fertile ground for the research with its abundance of high-tech lab rats and “Redmond widows.”
Although the exposition was a tad fuzzy, Waiting for the Paint to Dry was a well-written, extremely interesting, authentic depiction of a struggle most of us find ourselves in, although perhaps not in such an extreme degree.
The cast of Deya Ozburn as Colby, the caretaking sister, Hannah Coleman as Vanessa the babysitter/social worker, and Amy Van Mechelan as Abby, the would be girlfriend, were more than up to the task; but Cacey Williams as Edith our neurodivergent adult-child was the real star.
It was a short play but highly informative and for anyone who has ever had difficulty setting boundaries or had a grizzly Catholic upbringing it is a must see. 18th and Union also has an mini-Art Gallery, a comfortable lounge and a decently stocked bar with plenty of free off-street parking.
Waiting for the Paint to Dry by K.E. Jenkins. Produced by Kairos Theatre. 18th and Union. 1406-18th Ave Seattle 98122 (Central District) Fri, Sat, Sun 7:30 pm. (Central District) Info: https://18thandunion.org/home Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4326659.