“Taking Leave”

Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne will present their newest show, “Taking Leave”, from March 15 through March 24. 

“Taking Leave, a drama by Nagle Jackson, is being directed by Stephanie Kenney-Gomez, produced by Gayle Walters. In the middle of the night, Eliot Pryne (Larry Hyatt), professor of English Literature, is packing what he thinks is a suitcase and leaving what he thinks is a hotel. In the later stages of early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, he is “taking leave” of the real world and imagining a new one, but the transition is painful,” reads the synopsis on Le Petit’s website, houmalittletheatre.com. “His alter-ego (Scott Courville), seen only by the audience, charts his final voyage speaking as Eliot once did. His caregiver, Mrs. Fleming (Donna Benda), is awaiting the arrival of his daughters to help assist her with his care. The visitation of his three daughters, Alma (Hope Daigle), a public school counselor; Liz (Shannon Bella), the TV actress, and Cordelia (Liz Folse), the ne’er-do-well vagabond, form the central event of this fully sympathetic play.”

Although the drama has several comedic moments, Kenny-Gomez expressed that no fun is ever made out of Eliot Pryne or his disease. 

“He’s always treated with dignity and respect. The comedy comes at the expense of the sisters because they are sisters and treat each other as such,” said Kenney-Gomez, who was been involved (acting, directing, lighting, producing, etc.) with Le Petit since 1973. “The show is very poignant and moving. It shows the disease of Alzheimer’s for what it is; it does not sugarcoat it.” 

Kenny-Gomez said she was “blessed” to have a dedicated cast who deeply delved into their characters. The well-experienced cast, who have been rehearsing for four nights a week since January, quickly created chemistry with each other, she also acknowledged. 

Usually about a six-week rehearsal period for plays at Le Petit, because of the serious subject matter of the show that hits close to home for many—including the cast— Kenney-Gomez wanted the cast to get together and start rehearsing early. 

“A lot of times, we’ve spent time after rehearsal kind of decompressing and talking about the experience, talking about what’s going on in the show and sharing experiences,” the director said. “Cause most all of us have known someone—our family or friend—who has been touched by this disease. So we all had stories to share.”

Her cast shared their perception of Alzheimer’s and how it affects them and their roles. 

“When you’re dealing with a person with Alzheimer’s, you have to suspend personal feelings and try to work within their issues,” Benda said.

“An Alzheimer’s patient knows what they’re not remembering. I think personally, that’s probably partly why some of them go through bouts of anger. You’re losing yourself…” Courville added. “There is a scene…where I walk off stage and I am choked up. It affects me—to put myself in the shoes of an Alzheimer’s patient as much as I possibly can.”

Tuesday through Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinees start at 2:30 p.m. For more information on how to reserve seats for the show—which is recommended for adults only due to language and intense situations—email houmalittletheatre@gmail.com or call 985.876.4278. 

“It’s done really well. Audience members will get a good idea of what someone with Alzheimer’s and their family members are going through,” said Hyatt. “It can be very intense at times, but it is also very tendering and loving at times,” Kenney-Gomez added. “It’s a rollercoaster of a show.”  •

Eliot Pryne (Larry Hyatt)