Cost of Living-Explores multiple meaning of the phrase

Parallel lives intertwine with honesty and heart in the rarely-seen world of Disabled individuals and caregivers.

Directed by Teresa Thurman, one of Seattle’s most eminent theatres, Sound Theatre Company, has opened Cost of Living, a play with great relevancy to our current epidemic of isolation and loneliness. Taking place in New York City, the title not only refers to what it costs in dollars and cents to live in Manhattan and its boroughs, but also the emotional costs of simply living.

Although the play focused on certain marginalized groups, namely, the physically disabled, under-employed graduates, racial minorities, recovering alcoholics, and the instability of gig workers, Cost of Living had a universal message. Comic dialogue embedded in the script, by the author Martyna Majok, kept the audience engaged, in what sounds like a depressing play, but was not.

Staged at the studio space at 12th Ave Arts, two parallel stories take place scene by scene at different ends of the stage. At one end, John, played by Gerad Waters, a wheelchair bound Harvard educated doctoral student interviews, hires and ultimately disappoints an overworked, underpaid Latinx bar-maid, Jess, played by Viviana Garza, as his morning caregiver.

John seems to have an inner mantra “No B.S. in my pad.” He particularly liked to verbalize questions and observations, which most of us would never dare say. While sensing her discomfort in dealing with the physically intimate aspects of the job, he gets right to the point. As John, Waters’ razor-sharp comic timing and facial expression were totally disarming.

Vivianna Garza as Jess, Gerald Waters as John

As time passes, John also wants to emotionally connect with Jess on a human level and just pass the time of day and befriend her. In contrast Jess (Viviana Garza) used subtle evasive tactics about her background, personal life and other jobs, which added an element of suspense and tension between the two.

Vivianna Garza as Jess

At the other end, Eddie, played by Drew Hobson, a former truck-driver with a DUI, on his record, tries to reconcile and care for his estranged wife, Ani, played by Teal Sherer, who through a car accident, is partially paralyzed.

Both couples dance emotional tangos of connection-rejection, revealing major communication problems. Although very similar and thematically linked, the two stories ran parallel to each other; it was only at the end, that the link between the two was revealed.

Drew Hobson as Eddie and Teal Sherer as Ani

Although the structure of the play was not exactly traditional, as the two separate storylines seemed like one extremely long exposition before the real plot began; however, due to the strength of the dialogue, and the formidable cast the audience laughed and gave it a standing ovation.

The dialogue of the other couple, dyed in the wool rough talking New Yorkers, complete with authentic accents coached by Marianna de Fazio was like a pendulum swinging. Like many post break-up conversations, it swung between reconciliation and divorce proceedings, all the while revealing Eddie’s vulnerability, fear of loneliness and isolation. Both actors, Drew Hobson and Teal Sherer were up to the task of this astute verbal sparring.

Staging this particular play with the audience on both sides of a long narrow rectangle stage, was not ideal as sometimes actors backs were to the audience, and some lines were inaudible. This was very unfortunate especially in the opening scene when Eddie delivers a long monologue. Since his back was to me most of the time, I did not catch everything he said. Later when I saw how very animated Drew Hobson was, I felt a bit cheated.

I recommend this play, it is not a play about the disabled that was just the context; it is about a universal emotion framed in humor. It is the humor in the play which created the connection between the actors and the audience.

Cost of Living
. Sound Theatre Company. 12th Ave Arts. 1620 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122. Capitol Hill, one block North of Pine St. Thurs, Fri, Sat 7:30 pm, Sun. 2 pm. Mon. June 19, 7:30. Closes June 30. (N.B. Parking is next to impossible, #10, #12 Buses or Sound Transit, Capitol Hill stop)

12th Ave Arts is Wheel Chair accessible as is the Studio Theatre.

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