Monday, November 11, 2019

Up the Ladder Down the Slide

PlayFest at the Orlando Shakes (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803) is a two-weekend festival, where patrons get to experience seven readings of new plays in development and participate in the creative process with post-reading playwright talk backs and surveys. Each reading is $10. I stopped in for a rehearsal of Up the Ladder Down the Slide by David Valdes. The play shares the story of three longtime best friends and their aging parents.

Three boxes were placed on stage to represent three ladders. The music stands which held scripts were numbered from one to six so actors knew where they would be staged during this first  staged reading of the play. The three characters who were taking care of their aging parents would commiserate over drinks sharing stories that were both humorous and sad.

In one scene a young daughter, Vee (Alanna Fagan) was trying on her wedding dress which was in her opinion way to short and relieving. Her mom, Karen (Tiza Garland) snapped a photo on her cell phone and shared it with her friend Oscar.  He responded with a photo of a far worse wedding dress fail.  Texts flew back and forth and we were left wondering just how absurd the exchange got based on the reactions on stage.

Laurel (Avis-Marie Barnes) cared for her father with autism (Michael Morman), Oscar (Bert Rodriguez) cared for his aging mother Mamita (Blanca Goodfriend) as they searched the stage for a stray cat, And the mother caring for her argumentative mother Joann (Karin Amano) won my heart as they drove each other crazy. Only laughs with friends and some stiff drinks kept these friends sane.

Towards the end of the play each aging parent sat on one of the boxes with their care givers behind them. With baby boomers aging, these stories become more common with this generation caring for the one before. The play has plenty of heart but I didn't get a chance to stay to the end. I am left wondering what the next step is towards the beyond and how it will affect those who invested so much of themselves. These friends seem capable of navigating even the worst times with some drinks and laughs.

Creative Team

Director: Nick Bublitz
Stage Manager: Jazlynne Williams
Stage Direction Reader and Dramaturg: Laura Swindoll


Laurel: Avis-Marie Barnes
Karen: Tiza Garland
Joann: Karin Amano
Mamita: Blanca Goodfriend
Vee: Alanna Fagan
Oscar: Bert Rodriguez
The Commodore: Michael Morman
Lonnie/Nurse Mike/ Bar Back: Sean Andric

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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