Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Arden Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Trezana Beverley and Melanye Finister
Photo by Eyes Wide Studios
Ladysitting, now in its world premiere production at the Arden Theater Company, tells the honest and intimate story of a fierce and formidable Black woman who is reaching the end of her life. Acclaimed Philadelphia-based author and playwright Lorene Cary based the drama on her 2019 memoir, which takes place during the year before Carry's grandmother Nana passed away. Director Zuhairah McGill has assembled an excellent cast to portray Nana and her loving but exhausted caregivers. Every cast member brings a unique perspective to the story and together they feel like family. Beautifully bittersweet, Ladysitting offers audiences a unique a glimpse into both the unexpected joys and the harsh realities of caring for an elderly, chronically ill family member at home.

Nana (Trezana Beverley) has taken care of herself and her loved ones for nearly a century, when she is discharged from a hospital visit into the care of her adult granddaughter Lorene (Melanye Finister). Even as Nana struggles with the loss of independence, her well-meaning family, the ghosts of her past, and death itself (played with remarkable gravitas and humor by Brian Anthony Wilson), she remains a force to be reckoned with. Lorene enthusiastically embraces the role of caregiver, but over time the exhausting and difficult responsibility becomes almost too much to bear. Lorene leans on her husband Bob (David Ingram) and daughter Zoe (Monet Debose), but they are not immune from the emotionally taxing and messy work of end-of-life care.

Cary captures the family's experience–her family's experience–with earnest affection. Anyone who has ever been involved in the care of an ill or elderly loved one will almost certainly see themselves reflected in this poignant drama. However, authentic storytelling does not always mean superlative theater. Where Ladysitting effectively conveys the slow, tedious rhythm of in-home care, the pace of the drama drags. The tepid victories and heartbreaking minor setbacks feel all too real, but I found myself wanting joyful highs and devastating lows. Still, the slow burn feels undeniably genuine, and audience members with the patience to stay engaged are richly rewarded by the impressive work of McGill's cast and crew.

Beverley anchors the cast as relentlessly feisty Nana, conveying frustration, pride, sadness, and grit with stunning felicity. Beverly's entire performance is captivating. She makes something as simple as a good arm stretch a moment of pure joy. There is a tangible sense of frustration and love between Beverly and Finister, but Finister is at her best in scenes with Monet Debose and David Ingram. Debose accomplishes the difficult task of portraying a young person, undeniably loving and just a little bit selfish, with grace. Ingram's quiet love and support feels like a gift. Together, Beverly, Debose, and Ingram form as realistic a nuclear family as I have ever seen on stage.

The costume designs by Leigh Paradise are impeccable. Every button-down shirt, cozy cardigan, and well-worn hat helps bring Cary's characters to life. Brian Sidney Bembridge's set design gives the actors plenty of space to work in the intimate space of the Arden's Arcadia Stage, but it feels a little too modern and otherworldly for the subject matter. Thom Weaver's lighting designs feels similarly uncanny, but effectively conveys the play's shifting modes and moods.

Despite its imperfections, Ladysitting is a powerful drama that offers original insight into end of life experiences. Cary's excellent writing and the impressively talented cast make this a world premier everyone in Philadelphia should feel proud to host. Check it out before this haunting play closes.

Ladysitting runs through March 10, 2024, at Arden Theatre Company, 40 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets and information, please visit, call 215-922-1122, or visit the box office.

Trezana Beverley: Nana
Melanye Finister: Lorene
David Ingram: Bob
Brian Anthony Wilson: Angel of Life and Death
Monet Debose: Zoe

Director: Zuhairah McGill
Set Designer: Brian Sidney Bembridge
Lighting Designer: Thom Weaver
Costume Designer: Leigh Paradise
Sound Designer: Jairous L. Parker
Assistant Director: Morgan Charéce Hall
Stage Manager: Alec E. Ferrell
Assistant Stage Manager/Arden Professional Apprentice: Meili Huang