In the intervals of The Michaels, the hissing of exhales accompanies every lights-out transition. Before you know it, you realize you might have forgotten the moments that came before.
Playing at the Public Theater, Richard Nelson’s The Michaels focuses on a squared-in sphere of a family, with the program to guide you on some of the unclear nature of the party’s relationships. The mortality of one of its characters, Rose (Brenda Wehle), gradually assumes precedence, as the group discusses Rose’s sleep patterns, her attitude, and her fading body and we realize we are watching loved ones closing a chapter in life. Rose is dying of stage-IV cancer, and her daughter (Haviland Morris) and niece (Matilda Sakamoto) are to dance three of her pieces.
Under Nelson’s direction and script, the conversations are so soft-spoken, and boxed-in, as if we’re tuning into such a private intimate space. Sometimes the soft ticking of the oven timer that pulsates through their dialogue. Her daughter and niece are to dance out her choreography Rose can no longer dance. While Rose does not expire in this play, we observe moments where she vanishes for naps, how her significant others discuss her condition, and then also switch to other vaguely related matters. Even in the small-talks vaguely related to the cancer, the family is eulogizing Rose already.
The Michaels is a meditation on the art we leave behind and the memory that will exist in the minds of bereaved left behind. Does it make an impact on me? Not viscerally, but we take solace in the fact that the family can reclaim their Rose long after she is gone from the earth.
For more info on tickets, see here: https://publictheater.org/productions/season/1920/the-michaels/