Alzheimer’s disease is certainly not a laughing matter. But for playwright Kim Carney, of Beverly Hills, Michigan, whose mother passed away from the debilitating disease in 1997, it was a painful experience but also one that created rich moments that made her smile. And like many writers, Carney observed her mother’s life and wrote about it, finding humor, touching moments and cathartic release.
This weekend, Carney’s play, Moonglow, a love story inspired by her mother’s experiences with Alzheimer’s will take to the intimate stage of the Purdon Studio Theatre for performances by the cast from . The Purdon Studio Theatre is located within the historic on Lake Shore Road in St. Clair Shores.
“I hate to say it’s an Alzheimer’s play; it’s really a love story,” said Carney, who wrote the play five years after her mother’s death. “It’s a story told with humor.”
That humor springs from the two unique “people” her mother became in her final years--one, a teenage girl from the 1940s; the other an elderly woman.
“It’s the true story about what happened to her,” Carney said. “Even as she was going through it, I thought it could be a play because she became two characters. I thought it would be interesting to show the two sides of her personality. That’s what inspired the play.
“It was difficult to write, but it was good therapy.”
Moonglow was co-produced for Ann Arbor’s Performance Network and Lansing’s Boar’s Head Theater in 2006. After that, it was optioned by New York-based MARS Theatricals, which wanted to see it produced on Broadway, but to no avail.
The up-side is that now community theaters such as Grosse Pointe Theatre can now produce the heartwarming play that is sure to leave lasting memories for all who attend, and even those who are in the cast.
senior Sarah Shook plays the 1940s teenaged girl in Moonglow. Working in the smaller Purdon Theatre, combined with having the opportunity to meet and talk with Carney, has made this production that much more special to Shook.
"Being apart of Moonglow has been a huge, yet rewarding, challenge," Shook said. "The subject matter of this show is so relevant and so sensitive not only to members of the cast but to the audience. Because of that there's a level of responsibility to make it real and genuine so they can make that emotional connection."
It's that sense of realism that appealed to Shook, who has been in many Grosse Pointe Theatre productions, most recently The Music Man this season and Annie Get Your Gun last season. Shook said she has to keep in mind that the subject matter of Moonglow is something that audience members may be living through right now, adding to her sense of responsibility to the role.
"You don't want to make a mockery of anyone's situation but you also don't want to make it so depressing that it doesn't show the hope and courage the patients and their families have throughout the fight," she added. "It's a beautiful message and struggle, one that should be known and recognized. This show does just that."
Shook was also thrilled to meet Carney and feel the writer's connection to this special play.
"Meeting Kim boosted everyone's morale, I think," Shook said. "She's such a sweet, down-to-earth woman, but you can tell this show is her 'baby.' She really cares about it, and knowing that we got to rehearse in front of the person who put words in our mouths is amazing. It's an opportunity I've never had before, but it made me feel that much more of a connection to my character."
Moonglow opens this Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. at the Purdon Theatre at 8 p.m., with additional shows Feb. 18-19, 24-26 and March 2-4. All Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m.; Sunday performances start at 2 p.m. All tickets are $15 (no assigned seating).
To order tickets, please call the Grosse Pointe Theatre at 313-881-4004.