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Thursday, November 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 19.0° F  Fog/Mist
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TAPIT/new works' Take Care paints a sobering picture of growing old
Sheri Williams Pannel (left), Kay Dixon, Donna Peckett and Danielle Dresden in TAPIT/new works' Take Care.
Credit:Sharon White

TAPIT/new works' show Take Care, which opened Thursday in Overture Center's Promenade Hall, makes me realize I need to prepare to be a member of the sandwich generation -- people dealing with the care of both children and aging parents. Danielle Dresden wrote this work, which draws from the stories of older adults and their caregivers and family members. While it is often funny, it paints a sobering picture of growing old in our country. As the play points out, the difference between providing care and actually caring can be stark.

Ruth (Donna Peckett) rushes to Florida when she learns her mother Irene is in intensive care after breaking her hip. While trying to figure out Irene's living arrangements, Ruth stays in her mom's apartment at the Oasis, "South Florida's Premier Senior Living Community." That's the tagline repeated often by Oasis director Gayle (Dresden). Helping Ruth are Della (Sheri Williams Pannell), Irene's independent home health aide, and Brenda (Kay Dixon), Della's niece.

I really enjoyed the first act. It's fun getting to know these characters, and Dresden presents a lot of information about aging populations, insurance, Medicare and Medicaid in a way that seems organic. (Example: for the next 19 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 every day.) The second act, though, is less focused. Elements I initially found entertaining started to get a bit irritating, like the characters' constant cellphone calls.

As directed by Tamara Moschea, the cast is mighty. Peckett strikes the right notes as a harried adult child. She tries to do right by her mother without getting engulfed in the complexities of senior care. Dresden is believable as the icy Oasis director, who is motivated by ambition and avarice. Both actors also appear as Oasis residents.

Playing Brenda, Kay Dixon has the perfect blend of sass and pragmatism and is a confident, engaging actress. She's able to convey so much with an eye roll, and she delivers quips with great timing. Sheri Williams Pannell's unflappable, wise Della is at the heart of the play. She's kind and respectful as she does her work.

This is a TAPIT/new works production, and there is tap dancing. I enjoyed an attractive video of Peckett performing a tap solo, and the song that closes the show is led by Pannell, whose voice is powerful. But both feel a bit shoehorned in. There were a few technical glitches at Thursday's performance, like a thwacking sound that plagued the end of the first act.

Take Care runs through Sunday, May 6. Any show that can get genuine laughs about HIPAA policies deserves respect.

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