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Monday, March 11, 2019

"Dying in Boulder" at LA MAMA - Dying and Trying to Reconcile the Past and the Hereafter

"Dying in Boulder" is a thoughtful play that looks back on the life a dying woman (Bernadette Quigley) and her orchestration of her Buddhist burial.  The play orbits around dying, the "big D" and how people confront or deny the inevitability of human mortality.  The dying woman's family consist of a daughter (Fenton Li) ready to give birth, a doting husband (Fenton Li) and a sister Lydia (Jan Leslie- Harding). Raised in MN the sisters' lives take on their own journeys.  One sister remains to care for their dependent parents while the other absconds to LA to become an acclaimed actress.  After the girl's parents are deceased (Bernadette) sets off on a more exotic journey to the Philippines where she meets, marries and returns to the US, settling in Boulder where they raise their daughter.  (Bernadette) has assumed Buddhist philosophies but hasn't entirely cast off sibling resentments or her parental guilt.   Lydia has achieved a middling acting career and has come to help care for her dying sister but she doesn't care for the rituals (clearly laid out in colored binders) concerning the cleansing & cremation of her sister's corpse.  Playwright Linda Faigga-Hall ("The Female Heart) manages to view the yin & yang of life & death and its acceptance & denial in varying cultural norms.  The play uses levity to raise the solemn topic of a dignified death.  The play takes a shrill detour when the Lydia wants to commandeer the funeral arrangements disregarding her sisters wishes.  Unfortunately, familial dysfunction, blame & regret are splayed which shrouds the grace of redemption & a dignified death in shallow light.  Still, "Dying in Boulder" is a karmic cleanser.  The play constructs a sensitive and thoughtful play unafraid to face the fear of facing death.   "Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."  (Buddhist philosophy)

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