Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s world premiere of Jean Koppen’s The Best Worst That Can Happen is a must-see for delightful and heartwarming theater. The play focuses on the relationship between a mother and daughter as the daughter navigates the loss of her mother’s memory.
The mother worries about her daughter’s career and love life. The mother, Margie, is a retired theater teacher who likes to act out conversations and conflict with her book author daughter, Joanna. The introduction of a family friend, Paul, to “help” Margie by moving in, helps break down the walls of denial and tension that a family experiences with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
We also get an introduction to Paul’s brother, Lewis, as a neurotic film producer from Hollywood. All their lives will intersect in the most unconventional of ways. As director Joanna Henry so aptly states, “This is a sophisticated narrative, dealing with aging, self-esteem, and Alzheimer’s, but it is also a love story.”
Henry directs a cast of actors who complement each other quite nicely. Anne Paine West as Margie is phenomenal as she takes us on her journey of memory decline with candor and grace. Elizabeth Replogle plays daughter Joanna with a steel resolve that softens over time. The characters of Paul, vulnerably played by Brad Sperber, and his brother Lewis, outrageously played by Nathan Adam Tatro, all help to weave these characters into each other’s lives in unexpected ways.
The set design by Charles Dragonette, assisted by Leah and Shah Choudhury and Jim Hutzler, takes place in the same room with some clever deviations. I especially loved the framed playbills on the wall, marking the life of a theater teacher. The lighting might benefit from softer transitions between scenes, but this might have been what was intended for this production.
I was told this production had its own intimacy and fight coordinator (Emily “EJ” Jonas), and her consultation on this was brilliant. One intimate scene was laugh-aloud funny and almost scene-stealing. I had the privilege of meeting the author of this very meaningful and entertaining play, Jean Koppen. Her plays have been seen at the Kennedy Center, Page-to-Stage Festival, Keegan Theatre, and the Capital Fringe Festival.
This play resonates with anyone who is coping with aging issues with a parent or loved one. It tackles what it feels like to be bullied as a child and how we carry that into our lives and relationships. It also shows us how even when we think we are not ready for it, love shows up to prove us wrong. It is a play about a paradigm shift in thinking that sometimes the best can happen in the worst situation.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
The Best Worst Than Can Happen plays July 15, 16, 22, and 23, 2022, at 7:30 pm and July 10, 17, and 24 at 2:00 pm presented by Aldersgate Church Community Theater performing at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA. Tickets ($18 general; $15 for seniors and active-duty military) can be purchased online or at the door after the window for presales has closed.
COVID Safety: There is social distancing between rows and masks are encouraged. All cast and crew are fully vaccinated and boosted.
The Best Worst Than Can Happen
Play written by Jean Koppen
Produced by Charles Dragonette and Marg Soroos
Directed by Joanna Henry
Anne Paine West as Margie
Elizabeth Replogle as Joanna
Brad Sperber as Paul
Nate Tatro as Lewis
Lighting Design, JK Lighting
Costume Design, Beverly Benda