Reader’s Theatre: Taking Leave
In the middle of the night, Eliot Pryne, professor of English Literature—specialty Shakespeare—is packing what he thinks is a suitcase and leaving what he thinks is a hotel. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, he is “taking leave” of the real world and imagining a new one, but the transition is painful. His alter-ego, seen only by the audience, charts this final voyage speaking as Eliot once did when he was the leading authority on Shakespeare’s King Lear. The visitation of Eliot’s three daughters, Alma, Liz and Cordelia, forms the central event of this oddly comic, yet fully sympathetic play. The decision—whether or not to have Father put in a “home”—provides the central conflict among the three very different sisters: the public school counselor, Alma; the TV actress, Liz; and the ne’er-do-well vagabond, Cordelia, who arrives in her black leather motorcycle outfit fresh from a year in Paris and a history of drug abuse. As in Shakespeare’s play, it is the young Cordelia who assumes responsibility for her father and leaves us with the bittersweet realization that, while all will not be well, Eliot’s taking leave will be a gentle one.