Max Posner’s play about coping with an aging parent hits some uncomfortable truths

Many stories about aging parents suffering with dementia feature caring children and other loved ones doing their best to help while coping with their own fears and uncertainties. But what if the parent in question is not particularly loved? What if, in fact, she’d abandoned the family while the kids were still young, then resurfaced years later as an unwelcome bundle of needs?

So it is in “The Treasurer,” Max Posner’s memory play about a man burdened not only with having to deal with his estranged mother’s health and financial problems but by his own guilt at not really giving a shit about her. Augie Truhn plays the unnamed Son to Billie McBride’s Ida, the mother who left the family for another man when he was just 13.

The cast has only two other members: Jasmine Jackson and Peter Trinh, who play a variety of roles including the two other sons.

After Truhn’s character agrees to look out for Ida’s fucked-up finances (becoming the “treasurer”), he finds himself reluctantly enmeshed in her world while her connection to reality becomes ever more tenuous.

This show has a lot going for it, with an excellent cast ably directed by John Moore. Working with the long, shallow stage at Miners Alley, Moore went for a minimalist set that leaned more on sound and light for atmosphere.

Truhn is superb in the role of The Son, perfectly capturing the frustration and guilt inherent in the character both in his interactions with Ida and in his own monologues trying to get his head around the situation. While he sometimes gets a bit too loud (isn’t yelling at someone more impactful done in a lower, tight voice?), he has the audience from his opening monologue, where he muses on all the normal stuff he does during the course of his life juxtaposed with the rabbit hole Ida drags him down.

For Ida, Posner painted a character who, while suffering from memory loss and a dwindling ability to deal with the everyday, nonetheless has strong opinions and is unwilling to give up the trappings of her former life. Despite being quite broke — even the house is upside down — Ida manages to guilt The Son into accommodating most of her needs even as it becomes increasingly clear it’s all completely unsustainable.

McBride turns in a strong performance, avoiding simplistic caricatures of the befuddled oldster with a nuanced portrayal of a woman trying to swim in a sea of contrast and confusion. The descent is gradual at first, then picks up steam as Ida tries to bulldoze her way forward while losing track of what worked in the past. It’s when she demands a new iPhone so she can keep track of her shrinking number of friends that The Son puts his foot down, blasting her with a savage indictment of her alleged need. It’s just a phone (although an expensive one, as he reminds her), but it serves as a standin for all those material things Ida used to enjoy but can no long afford.

And the kids are tired of paying for it all, particularly the upscale retirement place she’s in because all of her friends are there.

Peter Trinh

Follow the money

As the play’s title suggests, much of the conflict here revolves around money. It’s an interesting angle, since many of these stories focus on the emotional side and ignore the not-inconsequential financial aspect altogether. The highly uncomfortable reality many children face with aging parents is that supporting them can mean digging into things like their kids’ college fund or even their own retirement savings.

“The Treasurer” has a few laughs along the way, particularly in some of the interactions between Ida and some of the other characters portrayed by Jackson and Trinh. Both actors do nice work switching in and out of their different roles. Trinh is spot-on as the disinterested brother who’d like the Ida problem to just go away, and he has fun with another scene playing a snooty bedding store clerk. For her part, Jackson is more sympathetic as a clothing store employee whose patience is tested with Ida’s long-winded stories.

Jasmine Jackson and Augie Truhn

While it drags in a few spots, Moore’s crisp direction has things moving as the story unfolds. Presented without a halftime, it’s a bit of a long haul, clocking in at over 90 minutes. (A shame, too, since Miners Alley has such a nice bar for intermission!)

What we see in “The Treasurer” is not only a situation we could be in as our parents age, but also a scary peek at what could be in store for us as well. Dying is hard enough surrounded by loved ones and one’s faculties intact. Ida’s plight is tough to watch, but it’s a familiar one in America, where the elderly are all too often put out to pasture and forgotten. As in the case of The Son, we may feel guilty about it, but that’s no comfort to the Idas of the world, left alone to navigate the journey to the unknown country.