"L'Eddie, un camioner a l'atur, i la seva exdona, Ani, es retroben d'una manera inesperada després d'un accident terrible que l'ha deixat tetraplègica.
La Jess, filla d'immigrants, graduada universitària, pluriocupada, es troba en un moment desesperat quan es presenta a l'oferta de feina de cuidadora que ha publicat en John, un investigador universitari brillant amb paràlisi cerebral.
A mesura que aquestes quatre vides tan diferents col·lideixen i s'entrellacen, els rols s'intercanvien, s'inverteixen i exposen – qui està realment cuidant de qui? Qui ajuda a qui? S'ha d'aprendre a deixar-se ajudar?
Aquesta nova obra exquisidament original, honesta i divertida de la Martyna Majok, explora la nostra necessitat de connectar i ser estimats per sobre de qualsevol diferència."
Cost of Living is a piercing New Jersey-set play by Polish-born American playwright Martyna Majok. The Pulitzer Prize-winning work addresses issues such as love, privilege, interdependence and understanding through a gaze both “unflinching and unconventional”.
Recently revived in a Broadway production that ran for a month in New York in the autumn, the attempt to bring this challenging work to the Catalan stage meets with partial success. Directed by Pau Carrió (quoted above), the production stars Julio Manrique, Pau Roca, Anna Sahun and Katrin Vankova.
Majok, a Yale School of Drama graduate, wrote Cost of Living in 2016. She had just moved to NYC and was then told that someone close to her had unexpectedly died. As she recalls in an interview: “It was January. It was snowing outside my sublet apartment. I didn't have the money to fly to be at his funeral. I felt the furthest away I've ever felt. I started wishing I could see his ghost.” This hope for “magical” signs of connection led her to develop four characters over the course of a year, “they were composites of people I know and have been and aspects of what I was feeling.”
The characters form a rough-edged quartet that unite in disjointed harmony. Unusually for a play, two have disabilities: one congenital and the other the result of a recent accident. In the preface to the play, Majok asks that disabled actors play these roles. While in the Broadway production actors with milder disabilities were found, Carrió takes a compromised approach: well-known Catalan actors Roca and Sahun play the roles in as transparent an acting role as possible. Inevitably, though, this takes the wind out of the production.
Eddie is an affable middle-aged truck driver with a nervous temperament. Played by Manrique, the actor makes Eddie seem both messy and huggable. Ani is played stoically by Sahun. Her challenge, to create a woman paralysed from the neck down – who can’t be left alone in a bath in case she drowns – was approached with inflexibility. In the Broadway play, Paralympic athlete Katie Sullivan plays the part; an amputee, Sullivan is missing both lower legs but has much more scope for corporeal expression than Sahun was given. Eddie and Ani's dynamic works well, both emotionally and physically, albeit a bit forced at times; Ani’s rigidity is offset by Eddie’s constant movement. And with Sahun only able to move her head, there is an over-reliance on shouting to display feelings.
The other pair is less well-balanced: John (Roca) is a young academic with mild cerebral palsy and a sarcastic, slightly cruel sense of humour. Roca plays the problematic role with unsentimental precision. His careworker is Jess (Vankova), the daughter of an immigrant, who has since returned to her homeland. Key to this character is that despite having graduated from an Ivy League university Jess works a string of bar jobs and sleeps in her car; hanging around to take care of John, bathe him, shave him, and be paid by him. Vankova does not deliver the right combination of sharp-nosed fragility and worldliness for the part. You can't imaging her sleeping one night in a vehicle, let alone working the hours she does. Carrió has no excuse for this direction, which falls back on pity, painstakingly purged from the original play. In this production, John has Jess under his thumb in seconds.
As Majok says: “I tried to build a home for four people in Cost of Living where they could feel held by each other - and where I could be held.” While what we hope for in others is rarely what we get, the reassuring human message of this otherwise bleak play is transmitted here with, at least, authenticity.