Review: True Colors’ ‘Dot’ hinges on its exceptional star


Theater may be a collaborative process, but artistic director Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre production of the comedy-drama “Dot” is singularly elevated by the magnificent performance of lead actress Denise Burse as the title character.

>> RELATED: Kenny Leon to give keynote at AJC Decatur Book Fest 2018

Dotty Shealy has lived in her West Philly home for upward of 60 years, where she and her husband (now deceased) raised three children. Each of the kids has long since flown the coop, living their own lives and dealing with their own personal issues. As another Christmas quickly approaches, however, the fractured family unit is forced to come together and confront the painful reality that Dot is waging a losing battle with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Such a diagnosis is undeniably devastating, and yet, within the context of a play like Colman Domingo’s “Dot,” it can provide a tremendously satisfying opportunity for an actress to sink her teeth into an uncommonly juicy and meaty role. Burse is most assuredly up to the complex task. The Atlanta native, who has been based in New York for some time now, is no stranger to the True Colors stage (from “Fences” to “The Amen Corner”), although she is probably most widely familiar for her recurring part on the Tyler Perry sitcom “House of Payne.”

Burse runs the gamut with fierce conviction and sublime nuance in equal measure, from capturing the comedic highs of the script to conveying the dramatic lows of its situation. At various points in between, she transitions from sharp, wisecracking lucidity to stark, heart-rending disorientation, occasionally in midsentence. It’s a master class in dynamic acting, informed and instructed by a profoundly authoritative talent.

Not that some in the supporting cast around her aren’t clearly capable, too, but — without exception — they are essentially saddled playing clichéd stereotypes. Tinashe Kajese-Bolden stands her ground quite admirably as the eldest daughter, Shelly, a take-charge lawyer and single mother who’s increasingly frustrated and stressed out by the day-to-day demands of looking after Dot. So does Amber A. Harris as Averie, the youngest, a loud and unruly would-be actress preoccupied with a dubious showbiz career.

Gilbert Glenn Brown is the middle son, Donnie, a floundering freelance musicologist, who is described as being “as gay as gift wrap” at one moment, and “too conservative” the next. As Dot eventually puts it, “If you’re going to be gay, be gay.” It’s hard to tell, given Brown’s lack of romantic chemistry with Lee Osorio, portraying his New Age-y husband, Adam, a health nut who has the two of them on a “juice cleanse” and a new vegan diet.

Also on hand: Rhyn McLemore Saver is Jackie, the family’s longtime Jewish neighbor, recently returned from a failed affair with a married man, and pregnant on top of that; and Benedetto Robinson appears as the soft-spoken, mild-mannered Fidel, Dot’s undocumented Kazakhstani caregiver.

(By their customarily impeccable standards, the scenic design of sisters Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay seems underwhelmingly ordinary, at least at first. Back at the helm of a True Colors show for the first time in several years, the Tony-winning Leon shrewdly waits for audience members to resume their seats after intermission before rotating the kitchen set to reveal a spacious, well-appointed living room on the other side — to a much-deserved round of applause.)

Life can be messy, as the extended Shealy family already knows, even as things inevitably deteriorate further for Dot. The way in which Domingo ties up all of the play’s secondary subplots so neatly and tidily belies that fact. But in her valiant performance, Burse speaks a certain human truth to a considerably higher power.

THEATER REVIEW

“Dot”

Through Aug. 12. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays (excluding July 27); 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (excluding July 28); 7 p.m. Sunday (July 29 only); 11 a.m. Wednesdays (Aug. 1 and 8 only). $23-$44. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 1-877-725-8849, truecolorstheatre.org.

Bottom line: See it for Denise Burse’s bravura performance.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Did Kennesaw’s Flau’jae survive ‘AGT’ quarters?
Did Kennesaw’s Flau’jae survive ‘AGT’ quarters?

Well, I called this one wrong Tuesday night. After gauging the competition, I figured Kennesaw rapper Flau’jae - with full-throated support from Simon Cowell and a solid performance - was a shoo-in for the semifinals on “America’s Got Talent.” But she didn’t make the cut.  The “AGT” voting audience...
Film at its best when evoking painful labor of teen self-discovery
Film at its best when evoking painful labor of teen self-discovery

Set against the backdrop of an early 1990s gay-conversion program for teenagers, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is an earnest and affecting drama that, for the most part, avoids caricature and melodrama to make its points. Based on the 2012 novel by Emily M. Danforth, and sensitively directed by Desiree Akhavan (“Appropriate Behavior&rdquo...
Kelly Macdonald provides the missing pieces
Kelly Macdonald provides the missing pieces

Two times out of three, this is what performers do for a living: Come up with something juicy and alive, working with material composited from cardboard and good intentions. Often there are pieces missing from the roles they play, and not in a tantalizing way. The resourceful actor finds them, often between the lines. Take Kelly Macdonald in &ldquo...
‘Alpha’ is simple, but will melt any dog lover’s heart
‘Alpha’ is simple, but will melt any dog lover’s heart

It’s sweet, really, to imagine the kind of devotion “Alpha” might inspire, a film that’s very simple, kind of strange, but will melt any dog-lover’s heart. It’s the story of a young boy living in Europe’s last Ice Age, his fight for survival and the special relationship with a wolf that keeps him alive. When...
Things to do in and around Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 16
Things to do in and around Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 16

A few chances of rain and some sultry temps combine for a good-looking Thursday and a good time to catch some music, some baseball, some theater and some cats. If you‘re looking for things to do, we’ve got ‘em. GODSMACK AND SHINEDOWN AT LAKEWOOD Head to the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood for some heavy metal with an alternative...
More Stories