Text of radio reviews for: The Life of Jude and Alzheimer that Ends Heimer

by Lynn on August 10, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two reviews were broadcast on Friday, August 9, 2013, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM: THE LIFE OF JUDE at Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace and ALZHEIMER THAT ENDS HEIMER at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Both part of Summerworks.

 Phil Taylor was the guest host.


1) Our Theatre critic Lynn Slotkin is back with her weekly theatre reviews and views of all things theatre. Hi again Lynn


Hi again Phil.


Since the Summerworks Performance Festival opened yesterday, I assume you are going to talk about some shows you saw?


I am. First let me tell you what Summerworks is. It started 23 years ago as a festival of one act plays. Over the years it’s grown from just being a theatre based festival to now adding music, live art, a performance bar, international companies etc. So it’s now called the Summerworks Performance Festival. It runs at various venues downtown, from August 8-18. I can only focus on the theatre component of which there are 42 shows.

 I saw four shows yesterday but will only talk about two of them: The Life of Jude and Alzheimer That Ends Heimer. Next week I’ll do an overview of the festival and pick the standouts of the ones I see. The schedule being what it is, I’ve only been able to slot 23.


2) Ok, let’s get to it. The Life of Jude is nothing to do with the Beatles I take it?


Nothing. The Life of Jude is a huge undertaking. It’s written by the gifted actor-writer Alex Poch-Goldin.

It boasts a cast of 21 of our leading actors. It’s directed by the equally gifted, inventive David Ferry. It’s a musical.

The story is about Jude, born after the time of Jesus, and devoted to his teachings. As he gets older and studies religion he believes that God is talking directly to him and he goes forth to spread His word.

 When Jude was a child his father was imprisoned and his mother made due by being a prostitute. She was abused by ‘customer’ (an officer) she was with and killed him. Jude’s blind faith and conviction that one must repent for ones sins leads to devastating results.

 Poch-Goldin is writing a parable and what happens when blind faith obscures moral decision making. It’s about corruption, corporate greed and all sorts of neat things that are with us today.

 Poch-Goldin’s writing is sharply funny, perceptive, and has created a raft of characters that are clearly drawn from  Teresa, Jude’s mother,  who has a desperate, moral centre that leads her to do anything to take care of her son; a lascivious magistrate with a bowel problem; to the blinkered, blind-faithed Jude who finally sees the light.


3) You obviously like the writing. How is it as a play?


Well with 21 actors it’s a huge endeavour. And one has to be impressed with the guts of this company to put it on. Poch-Goldin captures the tenacity of the people living under less than ideal conditions in a corrupt world. They are wily, often decent, and complex.

 That said, The Life of Jude could stand cutting. And clarification.  Initially we are lead to believe that Jude is simple-minded—or am I taking his declaration that he is simple, too literally. But early on he does seem simple. Then as he matures his faith becomes so unwavering and rigid that it’s scary.

 There are a lot of songs—part of it was developed at the National Theatre School in Montreal and some of the students wrote some of the music. Some of the songs don’t progress the plot or develop character. They should be cut.

 Other songs are rousing and express a belief or attitude of the people such as “Tell Me Lord” which is intoxicating and effective.


4) And how is the production?


Under David Ferry’s direction it goes like the wind. There is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of scenes to get through and Ferry leads his cast efficiently, creatively and often with vivid impressions. I must say that often his creativity too could stand some cutting.

 Poch-Goldin seems to have titled his various scenes—silence for one; poverty for another; retribution etc. Ferry finds clever ways of illuminating the title that introduces the scene; either on a curtain, or on the clothing of a character. These illuminations get in the way of the flow since the scene describes the point anyway. And sometimes they are illuminated so fast you miss seeing what it says anyway.

 But he, along with choreographer Darcy Gerhart, do capture the throb of the music as they move the cast to stomp, clap and sway.

 The cast is accomplished with Adam Kenneth Wilson leading the way as Jude. It’s a performance that captures the innocence of the young Jude and the focused, dangerously blinkered attitude of the older Jude. Nothing sways him from making decisions that will do harm to his parents because he has his faith on his side.

 As Teresa, Pamela Sinha is poised, confident and desperate. She does something wonderful that speaks volumes about Teresa’s power over men–she flicks her hair over her shoulder. Simple, effective and dangerous.

 As the Magistrate with bowel problems, Bruce Dow fairly drools over Teresa during her court case for murder, while he squirms until there is a bathroom break in the proceedings. It’s a performance of a scum bag, that makes you want to take a shower soon after.

 So The Life of Jude. I love the guts and fearlessness of the group to go big and say something important.


5) And now the strangely titled Alzheimer That Ends Heimer. 


Yeah, I think it’s a play on the title of All’s Well That Ends Well. At least it seems to be referenced. It’s written, composed and narrated by Jay Teitel. Yes, a musical about Dementia. 

 As the program note says: ‘Alzheimer That Ends Heimer (aka ‘Six Characters in Search of their car keys” or “Tuesdays with What’s-His-Name) is a musical about the lighter side of dementia; a cross between a Power Point presentation and “Marat-Sade”; and a love story involving a father, a son, and two hot twenty-somethings who keep losing track of who they are.”

 To Jay Teitel the playwright and director Jordan Pettle, it’s personal.  It’s about Jay Teitel’s father and Jordan Pettle’s grandfather who has disappeared into Alzheimer’s Disease.

 Teitel tells us how funny his father was/is in spite of loosing his memory—and gives illustrations which are often clever and amusing.

 He gives us an interesting history lesson. The first person to be diagnosed with the disease in the beginning of the 20th century was a 53 year old woman diagnosed by Dr. Alzheimer for which the disease is named. Because she was only 53 it was thought to be a disease of the young and not the old. Interesting.

 Then Teitel conjures his young parents by having the two previously mentioned hot twenty-somethings re-enacting their meeting, falling in love, and the encroaching dementia in the young man.

 There is also a minor goddess with a Russian accent named Dementieva (symbolism folks) to help with various revelations.


6) It sounds complicated.


Rather than complicated I found it laboured in its efforts to be funny, plodding in the storytelling especially involving the young couple, and mystifying regarding Dementieva. It’s not Six Characters in search of their car keys because there are only four characters. And what’s with the “Marat-Sade” reference. Teitel tries way too hard to be funny and he fails at it.

 I can appreciate that Teitel says that the word ‘sad’ as a description of the disease should be banned, that it’s insulting to the person with the disease. I’m sure everyone who either had a loved one with the disease or knows someone with it, will have their own ideas.

But for the purposes of the play and production, it doesn’t work. Jay Teitel as the Narrator is a big problem. He is an award winning magazine writer not an actor and it shows. His delivery is flat even a touch smarmy.  He stumbled over his own script. Timing is lost.

 I would have preferred his director Jordan Pettle to have been the narrator because he’s also a well established actor in this city. Pettle stages as best as he can but you can’t make an actor out of a person who isn’t one.

 As the young couple, Kathryn Davis and Ben Irvine have charm and warmth.  And while I think most of the songs are unnecessary, one song that Kathryn Davis sings beautifully questions what is worse, to be the one left behind, or the person who leaves. That’s a moving, appropriate song for this show.

 As Dementieva, Amy Rutherford is sassy and a breath of fresh air. She makes up for the disappointing script with inventive business.

 I can appreciate that Teitel says that while his father can’t remember what he had for lunch today, ‘he remains indelibly himself. The show is for him’.

 But is the show for the legions of people who had loved ones with the disease who disappeared in fistfuls and are now totally absent?






We look forward to your roundup next week. What else is on tap for you next week?


There are three Stratford openings: The Thrill a new one by Judith Thompson; Othello, and The Merchant of Venice.

 If there is time after the Summerworks roundup I’d love to talk about The Merchant of Venice. I’ll blog about the other two but Merchant is always good for debate.


Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can check Lynn’s Blog at www.slotkinletter.com

 The Life of Jude and Alzheimer That Ends Heimer continues at various times during Summerworks until August 18.


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