‘André & Dorine’ at Latino Theatre Company offers charming yet devastating portrayal of dementia
André and Dorine are an elderly couple amusingly competitive about who has to answer the doorbell while he types his books and she plays cello. At the door is their grown son, who observes Dorine doing minor forgetful things, which André easily fixes and returns to his writing. Until Dorine starts behaving in ways André can no longer fix.
Such is the way “André & Dorine” gently unfolds, its nimble actors wearing skin-colored masks that exaggerate the characters’ facial features in a charming way—almost like they are living puppets—making Dorine’s deterioration all the more devasting. But the engaging tale maintains its humor throughout, and situates what happens to Dorine and André through the wider perspective of life and love.
An award-winning production of Kulunka Teatro of Spain, “André & Dorine” is performed without words, adding to its charm as the actors portray moments both humorous and poignant entirely through movement and expression, even through masks. They often turn and face the audience at points both funny and moving, inviting the audience to emotionally participate in the story.
Flashbacks to how the elderly couple met—young André awkwardly waiting to ask musician Dorine for her autograph, then Dorine lending him a book at his apartment and getting turned on by his writing—add vibrancy and physical comedy. The flashbacks also lend perspective on how the aged couple weren’t always like that, a thread picked up when their grown son falls for Dorine’s new caregiver nurse. Aging and its consequences happen, but life and love continue in a cycle, the story seems to say.
Performers José Dault, Garbiñe Insausti and Edu Cárcamo portray the three characters with the deft physical skill of dancers. With fluid precision, they convey comedy, tenderness and even a compelling moment of André’s frustrated anger with Dorine, in addition to naturally embodying the stooped walking and shaky mannerisms of the elderly characters. Their invested performances are a pleasure to experience, despite the poignant nature of the story.
The three performers, along with Director Iñaki Rikarte and Assistant Director Rolando San Martin, also wrote the play. Insausti also created the enchanting masks, while Ikerne Gimenéz designed fitting everyday costumes for each character, which sometimes serve as props. As her dementia advances, Dorine wants to wear her coat backward, her purse as a hat and socks on her hands.
Set design by Laura Gómez is suitably spare, allowing the actors to move, with two doors, a desk, chairs, a shelf of books and several pictures on the wall—which Dorine takes down at one point and protectively hugs, desperately trying to hold onto the memories she is slowly losing. Original music by Yayo Cáceres includes emotionally resonant cello passages.
“André & Dorine” is ultimately a beautiful tribute to life that sadly can include the eventual erasure of an individual’s abilities, memories, even personal dignity—which the play doesn’t shy away from depicting. One family’s suffering through this type of loss is portrayed with tremendous care yet a light touch, transforming what can be a difficult and scary situation into inspiring art that affirms what it means to love.
“André & Dorine” continues at the Latino Theatre Company, at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, through June 19, with performances Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call the box office at (213) 542-7307 or visit latinotheaterco.org. Proof of vaccination and masks required. Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.