Looking forward to your Golden Years? You might want to reconsider that dream after seeing the Limelight Theatre’s new production, A Facility for Living. After the demise of Medicare, and the election of President Dick Cheney, retired actor Joe Taylor moves into a prison-turned-elder-care-facility. And then the real fun begins! Written by Katie Forgette, A Facility for Living is directed by Margaret Kaler and features stage management by Jennifer Latka. The show runs March 4 through March 26 and stars Lou Agresta as Joe, Brad Segal as Wally, E-Rock Rasmussen as Kevin, Mary Jung-Martin as Judy, Natalie Beltrami as Mitzi, and Rhona Bentz as Nurse Claudia.
Folio Weekly Magazine spoke with Kaler, a lifelong St. Augustinian with decades of experience in theater, about directing A Facility for Living and the characters’ struggles to find meaning in their lives.
Folio Weekly Magazine: Tell us about the story of A Facility for Living.
Margaret Kaler: It takes place in a nursing home that was formerly a prison, so that idea of the connection between the two and the way that they could be run as institutions is immediately drawn. And it’s a satire, so it plays up all of what could be the worst attributes of a nursing home. And probably what are the worst, which, for me, would probably be the loss of autonomy. You lose a lot of freedom.
How do the characters deal with this loss of freedom?
There’s a nurse who’s very strict and they kind of get a turnaround when somebody new comes in and shows them that they can all do something that brings new life. So they all begin to stand up to the system and start to demand their rights.
You’re referring to Lou Agresta’s character, Joe Taylor, right?
Yes, he’s the man who comes in and brings in new life. He’s an actor and he comes in and finds out that these other people have done theater and he says, “Well, we should do theater.” And they say, “Oh, no. We’ve tried this and we’ve done that.” And he says, “No. C’mon, let’s try it.” So they do readings of plays that they’ve always wanted to do. It helps bring back that spark of interest in life. The nurse, who is the villain, doesn’t want them to do this. She doesn’t want them to do anything that she doesn’t decide that they should do. She wants them to be quiet and go to sleep, basically.
What obstacles did you face directing the play?
There are a couple of long scenes in it — especially in the first act — where you’ve got to set things up. So keeping it moving and light enough in the first act so that it’s funny is something of a challenge. And we’re still working on that.
How do you think this play speaks to the way the elderly are treated in American society?
Well, this is really about what can happen to people who don’t have an advocate in the healthcare system or don’t have an advocate in the facility in which they live. These people don’t have a lot of contact with relatives and so they are pretty much [alone] and in this case, it’s being interpreted quite harshly.