What's it about?
Cost of Living is about the hardships and misfortunes of life that bring unlikely people together, the everyday struggles of living with and taking care of people with physical disabilities and the harsh reality that as humans, regardless of who we are, we cannot navigate life on our own.
What I experienced?
Getting to this show was not a cake walk. But in all seriousness, this is New York City. When is anything ever a cake walk? While Manhattan Theatre Club was relatively easy to get to from work for me, the theatre itself was quite complicated. When I got there - 30 minutes before curtain - it looked like a giant mob of people were already there. Only, it seemed like they were forming four different lines. Every time I thought I was a little bit closer to getting my ticket and moving on, I would find out I'm in the wrong line. "Is this the line for Cost of Living", I'd ask. "No, this is for the ballet." "No, this is for Fulfillment Center." "I honestly don't know what this line is for." I'm claustrophobic. I don't like this. Let me inside right now!!
Watching this show from my close to the stage seat, I knew I'd love it as soon as it started. When I'm at the theatre, I always look at the ensemble to see how diverse it is. Are there people of color? CHECK. But this show opened my eyes to a new level of diversity that I never considered. For the first time ever, I watched a show with two members of the cast having physical disabilities. Not just the characters, but the actors themselves. I was overjoyed to see that diversity was not missed here.
As I watched, I kept thinking to myself that I couldn't really relate to any of the characters. I've never been married, never personally experienced a physical disability nor have I ever taken care of someone who did but then, I got hit with a large dose of empathy. Each character, regardless of my original assumption that I couldn't relate, opened up my mind and heart to real human experiences. There's Jess, who has to work at sleazy bars to make decent money despite her Ivy League education and takes on a job to help John, a wealthy grad student who has a hard time showering, shaving and dressing himself. There's Eddie, a truck driver who is separated from his wife, Ani, who loses her legs in a car accident but find themselves back in each other's lives as he tries to bring light to her life and make her day-to-day activities a bit easier. Despite my inability to connect with the circumstances, I felt floored by the emotions I felt for each character. The one scene that stood out to me was the scene where Jess gives John a shower. In this scene, we see all of the steps required to get John into the shower - moving him from the chair, sliding over his shower seat, making sure his wheelchair is locked and in place for when he's done, Jess having to lift him just right to sit him down. And it makes me think about how easy it would be for me to jump in and out of a shower without a single thought - the small activities of my daily life that I often take totally for granted.
Once the show reaches it's turning point and Jess and Eddie meet under heartbreaking circumstances, Jess delivers the line that has stuck with me ever since. When Eddie offers her the option to stay with him while she gets her life in order, she can't seem to shake her doubts and fears that he has a hidden agenda besides just being nice. She says to him, "it's too bad we can't meet people without their past." LIKE, WHAT A LINE!! And how true! Our past experiences, no matter how bad or good will always have an effect on us, whether we want it to our not. If Jess is not used to men being nice to her without a hidden motive, it makes sense that she can't trust Eddie in this moment. But despite her fears, she knows she needs someone. And that's what I left the theatre thinking about that night. We can pretend to be self-sufficient all we want. I know I was definitely raised to be a strong, independent woman who doesn't need anything from anyone. But no matter how easy or difficult our circumstances, we all need someone. We thrive on human connection. And even when we don't want to believe it, we do better in numbers.
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What did you experience?
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