Some Thoughts on "Road to Mecca"
In the past fifty years in Hawaii there have been several plays which portrayed the love and need two people felt for each other to the lack of need for any other.
There was The Rainmaker with the romantic love between Lizzie, a thirtyish spinster, and Starbuck, an itinerant farmworker. Grace and Glorie treated the deep feelings of an old country woman and a younger city-bred social worker. The long relationship for an elderly Jewish woman and an African-American chauffeur played out over the years in Driving Miss Daisy. A couple in their twilight years gave us On Golden Pond as they faced the onslaught of early dementia.
Now we have The Road to Mecca with Miss Helen, a reclusive old South African widow and her 31-year-old friend, Elsa, who has driven for twelve hours in order to learn why she has received a letter full of despair.
These plays have two threads common to all: First, they all touch on the differing types of symbiotic attachments we humans can feel. Second, in their Hawaii presentations they featured Jo Pruden.
In the latest of these, playing at TAG-The Actors' Group and directed by Joyce Maltby, Jo is joined by Claire Fallon and the two bring to the stage a close bond that shows that even in the anger that Elsa uses to make Miss Helen see, that path is best for her mental well-being. Every thought, every word, every sideways glance reinforces the deep feelings - and concern - these two have for each other. The two spend the first bits of their reunion tiptoeing around the subjects that most affect each of them and seem to reach a solution of Miss Helen’s dilemma. Marius (Gerald Altweis), the village's hidebound minister, arrives to get her signature on a paper which would have her leaving her home and the statues and ornate candles that have been her life for the fifteen years since her husband died. The argument goes back and forth primarily between Elsa and Marius with Elsa being a staunch advocate for Miss Helen remaining in her home among her life’s work.
Honolulu has long gotten accustomed to Jo Pruden playing feisty older women who resist the ravages the world mounts against the elderly.
Claire Fallon brings to the stage a fresh, open approach - thoroughly at ease on stage and comfortable in her skin. There’s not a moment in which she seems to be playing a part as she sits comfortably and relaxes. pulling her foot up on the sofa.
Together, the two present a perfect picture of two women totally attuned to each other and happily interdependent.
Written by Jip Pruden.