Could I Have this Dance? Review – A Family in Survival Mode

Anna Connelly, Clara Rodriquez, and Anica Petrovic in COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? - Photo by Doug Engalla
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To a talented playwright like Doug Haverty, ideas come in many forms: When asked what inspired him to write COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE?, he responded, “It was a segment on 60 Minutes about two sisters who were at risk of getting Huntington’s disease (HD)…(which) is hereditary and doesn’t usually onset until middle age. It’s also called St. Vitus Dance…and news arrived that a test was available to give to at risk offspring which would determine if the disease had been passed on…one sister wanted to know, and the other did not…so there was the conflict, the seed.”

Lloyd Pedersen and Clara Rodriguez – Photo by Doug Engalla

Haverty’s idea led to the development of this powerful play at Group Rep under Lonny Chapman’s guidance. COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? opened at the Colony Theatre in 1991 and was well received by critics and audiences alike; it was soon picked up nationally and internationally. The American National Critics Association voted the play the Best Regional Play of 1992. Rave reviews described the tale as “a profound blend of pathos and humor” (Los Angeles Reader), “a gripping, emotional piece that both educates and enlightens” (Burbank Times), “a sophisticated story about relationship without preaching about disease” (Daily Breeze), and “every character has color and dimension” (Daily Variety).

Anna Connelly and Sean Babcock – Photo by Doug Engalla

The time is the spring of 1987, and the place is the home office of Grapevine Public Relations in Los Angeles. The close-knit Glendenning family has a lot going on, including a thriving business helmed by sisters Monica (Ana Connelly) and Amanda (Anica Petrovic) and the day-to-day care of their mother Jeannette (Clara Rodriguez), who suffers from Huntington’s. Happily, Jeannette’s husband Hank (Lloyd Pedersen) often pitches in with mom’s care. Meanwhile both sisters are exploring options with their boyfriends, Errol Watkins (Sean Babcock) and Colin McMann (Andy Shephard). All the while the specter of Huntington’s disease striking down one or both of the sisters always looms in the background. And then news of a test which will answer their unspoken questions and silent fears emerges and forces them to decide whether it’s better to know or not to know.

Sean Babcock, Lloyd Pedersen, and Andy Shephard – Photo by Doug Engalla

Despite a very heavy topic, COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? often sprinkles very funny bits into the drama; there really is a lot of humor in the quirky Glendenning family. In fact, challenges often tickle their funny bones – and the audience’s to boot. Skillfully directed by Kathleen R. Delaney, COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? examines the intricate family dynamics inherent in the medical issues tangled up in their genes. In a brilliant theatrical coup, Haverty depicts Huntington’s symptoms as a dance, only hinting at the real-life constant jerky motion when Jeannette is briefly shown behind a semi-transparent screen experiencing the “dance of death.”

Anna Connelly and Anica Petrovic – Photo by Doug Engalla

The cast does an exceptional job of portraying the complex human beings involved, from the very disabled and nonverbal mom to the wacky UCLA student who takes up with one of the sisters to the strong yet fragile older sister who wants to control the world – but cannot control her own destiny. Each character is thoughtfully, compassionately, and authentically portrayed as a real-life person, warts and all. COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? is highly recommended for all audiences. Earlier critical raves were spot on. It’s a heartwarming, straight-from-the-shoulder story about the power of family and the power of love in all its forms. Don’t miss this production.

Anna Connelly and Anica Petrovic – Photo by Doug Engalla

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? runs through May 5, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $35 (seniors and students $30, groups of 10+ $25). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.


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