REVIEW (We Love Ann Arbor): Kickshaw’s ‘Milvotchkee, Visconsin’ is moving, no matter how you say it

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The cast of Kickshaw Theatre’s “Milvotchkee, Visconsin.” (Sean Carter Photography)

Shortly before I saw Kickshaw Theatre’s production of Laura Jacqmin’s “Milvotchkee, Visconsin,” I learned that a kind-hearted woman I’d known in high school was recently diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer (while being x-rayed for a completely unrelated condition).

All of which is to say, I’d already been mulling over the ways disease shatters our precarious sense of control over our bodies and our lives when I arrived to watch this play, which deftly, candidly chronicles an aging woman’s (Molly’s) journey into dementia. (Presumably Alzheimer’s, but the script pointedly avoids naming Molly’s illness.)

Jacqmin tells the story through Molly’s point of view – which is less common than approaching it through the lens of loved ones, in part because it’s far more challenging. After all, how do you convey a clear tale from a person who’s losing her grip on memory and reality? Yet Jacqmin makes this bold authorial leap with wit and commitment; and when her script is paired with Kickshaw artistic director Lynn Lammers’ sure-handed direction, the results are, by and large, quite moving.

Molly (Nancy Elizabeth Kammer), a widow, has spent years giving tours of Wisconsin Concrete Park, a strange, real-life roadside attraction that was the brainchild of a man named Fred Smith. The sculptures depict an odd assortment of scenes, built by a man who wasn’t an artist but nonetheless felt compelled to make them, from concrete and pieces of glass (often from beer bottles). We accompany Molly as she gives tours – sometimes with her long-dead husband Richard (Michael Hays) along for the ride – but we also tag along as she sees her doctor (Dave Davies), receives visits from her two grown children (Aral Gribble and Sonja Marquis), gets confused while watching a movie, confronts a haunting personification of her disease (which she diagnoses as a hole in her head), and participates in a support group session. READ THE REST HERE

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