The feelings of helplessness that can accompany old age are powerfully evoked in Blossom, written and directed by Spencer Lott. The play centers on 76-year-old James Blossom, a former scenic painter for the movies who’s now living with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. He stands about eighteen inches tall and is surrounded at all times by figures in scrubs who control his every movement. He is both a literal puppet (his papier-mâché head and doll-like body manipulated by attached rods) and a figurative toy in thrall to ungovernable forces.
In scenes depicting mundane nursing-home life, the quietly frustrated Blossom (voiced and principally operated by Rowan Magee) interacts with other puppet residents, as well as with his harried daughter and sweet art therapist (played by full-size humans Jamie Agnello and Chelsea Fryer, respectively). From the outside things look grim, with gloomy health updates, mounting medical bills, and whole days during which Blossom doesn’t stir from his armchair.
But his dreams — a mix of memories and scenes from movies he’s worked on — remain vivid. Lott, a resident artist at the Jim Henson Foundation, shows us Blossom deep-sea diving, on safari in Africa, and riding a motorcycle with a glamorous film star, her long red scarf flapping in the wind. In these lovely, aching scenes (which incorporate miniatures, shadows, and, in one case, outsize topiary), Lott and his cast of five actor-puppeteers not only make us empathize with the inanimate but also remind us of the rich inner life still possible for those in mental decline.
Written and directed by Spencer Lott
161A Chrystie Street
Through September 24
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2016