The vagaries of family are sharply delineated in Deirdre O’Connor’s affecting new play. As in her Jailbait, a hit for Profiles last season, an unseen parent is a looming presence. But here the responsibilities are shifted; where in Jailbait the mother is the authority figure to be evaded by teenage Emmy and Claire, in Assisted Living Mom is the burden to be borne by adult daughter Anne.
Anne’s mother suffers from dementia; in the play’s opening scene, Anne’s interviewing for a new home health-care provider after mom bit the previous nurse. “Turns out that’s a dealbreaker for some people,” she tells Levi, the nervous young man applying for the job. The two stall for time, waiting for Anne’s less-than-reliable brother Jimmy to show up; by the time he does, the stammering, self-described “fuckup” Levi has won Anne over.
Anne, we learn, has given over the last decade or so of her life to the care of her ailing mother, having moved back into her childhood home, lost touch with friends and nearly given up on dating. Levi, who’s fallen out of his own social circle after getting sober, latches on to the mother and daughter as more than a job, to the chagrin of prodigal son Jimmy, who’s got developing family issues of his own.
Stacy Stoltz and Layne Manzer convincingly excavate a lifetime’s worth of sibling resentments, brought to the surface by their mother’s latest health crisis. Stoltz brings tremendous nuance to the way Anne’s crushing sense of obligation serves double duty as shelter from living her own life, while Manzer strikes honest notes as the man-child struggling under the weight of parental expectations and disappointments. Jordan Stacey’s Levi is mannered but charming, though he plays his hand too soon, telegraphing his character’s entire arc almost in his first scene.