Westwood Theatre Delivers Poignant Examination of the Meaning of Family with Production of ‘The Old Lady Shows Her Medals’


Photo By @wwdramaclub

Westwood Theatre put on a stunning production of ‘The Old Lady Shows Her Medals’ by J.M. Barrie during a pre-recorded showing on Friday, March 26. Photo courtesy of @wwdramaclub

Voices reverberating across the stage, face masks did not present an obstacle to Westwood Theatre in an emotionally adept production of the one-act play The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, which was shown virtually on Friday, March 26. 

J.M. Barrie’s touching 1918 work tells the tale of the amiable charwoman Mrs. Dowey, abustle in her humble abode, a one-room flat that presently, hosts three dear friends discussing World War I and their loved ones involved over a warm cup of tea. News of her son, the decorated Private Kenneth Dowey of the Black Watch regiment, reaches the hostess, of which she has been proudly detailing his achievements. His sudden and unexpected arrival back to London discloses the true essence of their relationship: a pious fabrication of shared surnames with no familial ties as part of her earnest effort to remedy an eroding feeling of isolation from conversations of the hardships of the battle front. A long awaited call for mothering is answered, and in a heartwarming turn of events, bonds the two together beyond their supposititious ties. 

“Everyone working on it did an amazing job at adapting to the circumstances this year, and I still had a lot of fun putting on this production even though we had to work around a lot of things,” Lucy Wang ‘21 said. “Since we were limited to a small cast, and we also had understudies for all of the roles, I felt more comfortable contributing my ideas and interpretations to the work as a whole. I felt like everyone had a voice in the production.” 

Despite a swift 40-minute runtime, audiences were treated to a captivating performance that sought to make sense of the vulnerabilities of shared hardship and the beauty of interdependence through an exploration of an intrinsically human experience of yearning and the fragile and fleeting, yet powerfully arbitrary nature of relation. A fondly recognizable display of an endearing sternness towards his “mother” marks the beginning of a change for the character of Private Dowey, portrayed by Diego Rodriguez ‘22, who artfully captured this stark contrast from their first strangerly interaction, which was filled with a collective indignation for one another.

 “One big message that I took away is [that] the aspect of family is such a vague term and it can come from anywhere,” Rodriguez said. “It’s less about your blood relation with someone and more about what you’ve been through together, how connected you feel to the person, and how you’ve supported each other.”

The spirit of camaraderie fostered by the candid interplay between Mmes. Mickleham, Twymley, Haggerty, and Dowey, played by Eva De Guelle ‘22, Lucy Wang ‘21, Katherine Giles ‘22, and Cait Lackowski ‘22 respectively, honors individually succinct and moving portraits of working women, where themes of tenacity are also tinged with a perpetual loneliness. The mothers live vicariously through their sons, whom they place their unwavering pride in while also seeking to evade the turmoil of war. Mrs. Dowey is an unlikely heroine whose desire for filial love was the beginning of a collective journey to redefine the meaning of belonging and home. With such emotionally significant material, putting on this show was both a challenge and learning experience for the cast. 

“I really started to appreciate what it’s like to have a full audience,” Luc Brown ‘23, who played Mr. Willings, said. “[When] performing, you don’t get much feedback when there’s a joke or a dramatic moment. I [now] understand what it’s like to have no one there.” 

The indispensable work of the crew embellished the performance where a seemingly simple set and auditory elements substantially amplified the subtleties of a cordially quaint yet eternally solitary atmosphere of which such a heartwarming story of maintaining humanity took place. The art of the farewell is mastered in the final moments of the play, as Mrs. Dowey carefully tends to the precious mementos of a happiness she so piteously worked to fabricate, only for it to be taken away so abruptly. 

“This was a difficult year and sometimes, just doing the thing is as important as doing the thing well,” Director Ms. Lydia Coats said. “[The students] have done both. It took us listening to each other, being gentle with each other, [and] making sure everyone felt that their voices were valuable in the rehearsal process to find ourselves again. This year wasn’t about the show. It was about the company.”

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