The 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Martyna Majok, COST OF LIVING demonstrates how challenges can lead to creativity and strength. In the case of COST OF LIVING, these challenges begin as physical and end as psychological and spiritual. Skillfully directed by John Vreeke, COST OF LIVING is – as one audience member summarized – intense and authentic.
Presented in penetrating snapshots of powerful moments, COST OF LIVING allows the audience to enter to lives of two complex human beings as they struggle with physical limitations which might decimate the hopes for many of us. John (Tobias Forrest), who suffers from cerebral palsy, is portrayed by an actor who has faced his own personal challenges after a spinal cord injury. John is a bright, aware individual, a monied graduate student who wants to maximize his every skill. However, John needs some very personal assistance with activities of daily living, including showering, shaving, and other intimate activities which most of us take for granted. To help him, he has hired Jess (Xochitl Romero), a practical woman of enigmatic background and schedule.
Meanwhile, Eddie (Felix Solis), an in-your-face urbanite, also has his struggles as he is forced to deal with loneliness and loss following divorce. Then his ex-wife Ani (Katy Sullivan) has a life-changing accident which leaves her quadriplegic. Eddie’s solution? To reunite with Ani and offer her all the effort and love that he can to help her deal with her crushing losses. Of course, this is no easy decision for these two hilariously foul-mouthed people, people who have never worn their hearts on their sleeves and who prefer to plod along without digging too deep. Katy Sullivan, like Tobias Forrest, has also faced her own challenges.
The two pairs continue with their lives, always in parallel tracks which never cross. Until they do. Playwright Martyna Majok has created a formidable tale about facing reality, even if that reality is bleak, with a sense of humor and unexpected chuckles. During the awards ceremony, Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy described COST OF LIVING as “an honest, original work that invites audiences to examine diverse perspectives of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals, a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver.”
COST OF LIVING is that and more, a heartfelt, provocative story which draws the audience in with an unsentimental and yet unexpectedly funny account of connection and communication. Scenic designer Tom Buderwitz offers a simple stage which morphs with Nicholas Santiago’ video design. John A. Garofalo’s lighting and Jeff Polunas’ sound also offer subtle cues as the play moves along. For audiences seeking diversity – as well as how challenges can change people, even as those same people remain the same – coupled with what makes caregivers tick – COST OF LIVING will prove satisfying and memorable.
COST OF LIVING runs through December 16, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets range from $25 to $45. For information and reservations, call 323-663-1525 or go online.