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Norvell review: 'Poochie' evokes a roller coaster of emotions

By Ed Norvell
for the Salisbury Post
“Poochie” is an outstanding play written by local author and playwright Sam Post and directed by Justin Dionne. The play opened last night and continues through Saturday.
Frankly, this is the first play that I have seen by Sam Post, and I was blown away. The two-act play was moving, funny, touching, sensitive and beautifully done by the outstanding cast. Lori Van Wallendael, a veteran of the stage in Salisbury, does a wonderful job of portraying Ruth, the fretting but caring daughter of Edna, sensitively portrayed by Sharon Doherty. Edna suffers from Alzheimer’s, and the story is about how the family deals with this devastating disease, what they sacrifice, the tensions it creates, and yes the humor that is an inevitable by-product of the disease.
Bob Paolino, another acting veteran does a great job as Edna’s husband, Jim, who isn’t above telling at least one big white lie to protect his wife and family from an inevitable hurt.
Sara Coon energetically plays Lisa, Edna and Jim’s daughter, who is the texting, cell-phone-talking, irresponsible kid who informs her parents that she wants to drop out of college — and then drops the big bomb. Her boyfriend, Nate, the unemployed airhead, is also well portrayed by Chris Spear.
They get a chance to all become very cozy living for a time in the same house with Jim and Ruth and Edna. The conflicting energies and priorities of the different generations get all mixed up in sometimes funny, sometimes sad ways.
Shawn Van Wallendael, an acting veteran, portrays Vick, Ruth’s brother who has control over Edna’s finances and legal affairs, and Preston Mitchell does a good job of portraying Edna’s nurse in the second act. He shows a sensitivity and respect that is often not shown to the elderly in Edna’s condition.
Justin Dionne does a wonderful job of directing the actors and did a great job with lighting, sound, set and the stage, which juts out into the audience, giving a more intimate feel to the Looking Glass Artist Collective’s Black Box Theater, already an intimate venue.
The one character that you never see, however, is Poochie, the title character. You certainly hear a lot about him and the family dogs, however, and he is expertly woven into the plot in a beautiful way.
I was warned that the play would be “depressing” because of the subject, but it was far from it. It is really a story of survival, the survival of a family and how they endure in the face of a devastating illness. Edna does not suffer; as her nurse says, she is at peace. It is her family that suffers as they deal with her illness and struggle to make sense of it. But they are strong and endure despite the devastating effects of the disease. I admit that I laughed and I cried. It was a real roller coaster of emotions, but well worth the visit to the Black Box Theater on Lee Street.
“Poochie” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Looking Glass Artist Collective’s Black Box Theater, 405 N. Lee St. Tickets are $10.

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