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The Secret Ruths of Island House 

Wednesday, Sep 13 2006
Ruth Portman, Ruth Russell, and Ruth Whitaker are residents of Island House, a care home for the elderly. Their days revolve around playing bridge, listening to books on tape, and eating bland corn chowder. As brought to life by Alissa Mortenson, Claytie Mason, and Annalisa Derr in this poignant meditation on memory and the inevitability of getting old, the three Ruths recount episodes from their lives both as they are now and as they once were. Based on taped, real-life interviews with seven seniors in assisted living facilities (all coincidentally named Ruth), the play blends physical theater, mask work, and excerpts from recording sessions with the interviewees. Dressed in white pinafores and orthopedic shoes, the actors chatter and skip about like young women — full of vitality and hope. But as soon as Mortenson, Mason, and Derr don masks (beautiful creations by Mason and Molly Millar), their stooped bodies and gnarled, marble-constant faces do all the talking. Though the rhythm of the piece feels arthritic in places and the structure doddering, The Secret Ruths is powerful for its insights into the process of aging — and for the sheer expressiveness and conviction of the performances.

About The Author

Chloe Veltman


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