REVIEW: Tying Up Loose Ends (Breathe Life Productions)

Face to face with ‘Loose Ends’


Breathe Life Productions present
Tying Up Loose Ends

Written and Performed by Catherine and Ann Gallogly
Directed By
Jamie O’Reilly
Music by
Ann Gallogly & Dan Stetzel

at Theatre Building Chicago
through July 28th  |  tickets:  $18-$25   |  more info

reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I must preface this review by saying that I work with elderly people in my other existence. I had some trepidation about seeing a musical on the subject matter of people transitioning and dying. The decision of going into hospice care is quite often difficult; one that requires facing your own mortality. Catherine Gallogly has written a heart-rending set of stories from her own experiences as a hospice nurse. Tying Up Loose Ends takes the audience through twelve stories of individuals facing the end of life and how she helped them.

Lovely songs done in cabaret style by Ann Gallogly and pianist Dan Stetzel accompany the stories. Catherine and Ann are mother and daughter respectively and the mutual admiration and respect is felt when watching them perform. Actually, this is not so much a performance as it is a storytelling session done with great flair and purity. Catherine Gallogly never treads on maudlin territory or into making the story about her. She gives due justice to the lives of the people and how she shared in helping them to the next phase. Ms. Gallogly is not an actress and makes no pretense of great drama or false emoting. She is a comforting and refreshing presence intimately sharing with the audience.

The stories are sometimes romantic and always mindful that sometimes there is humor to be found in death because it is a part of life. The story of the man dying from liver cancer had an unexpected romantic edge to it that bordered on the erotic. Gallogly describes him coming home from the hospital for one last meal of pot roast and potatoes. He is an old man who has been married for a long time. The details of how his wife runs to him and how he kisses her and caresses her have a voyeuristic feel and indeed, Gallogly confesses, “I shouldn’t be here”. It was a privilege for her to witness such a love and to make that intimate moment possible.

I found much humor in the story of Gallogly traveling to a slum neighborhood to attend to a dying African American woman. The patient self medicates with liquor and asks her nurse to give her eulogy. Ms. Gallogly was taken aback but forged ahead, honored to have been asked and in awe of the resplendence of Black funerals. She tells of her plain, black “Irish funeral attire” and all of the church ladies in their colorful outfits and hats.

My favorite song of the evening- “Goin’ Home” accompanied this segment. Ann Gallogly belted out the tune wearing a serious hat and gospel flair from deep in her soul.

I recommend Tying Up Loose Ends for anyone who is contemplating their lives no matter the situation. These tales of hospice give strength and encouragement to live big and love bigger. They will make you laugh and possibly break your heart open. To be a witness of someone’s last moments of life is an intimate and profound thing. Catherine Gallogly shares a joyous and wonderful celebration of life.

It should be noted that I bristled a bit at the woman who came out before the show to question people about what they expected the show to be like. Perhaps some people came to settle their own issues but it felt like an unnecessary intrusion. The lady seemed a bit put off when I said I expected a musical about hospice and shared no other details. There is no need to prescreen or prep people for what they are about to see. It was as welcome as the $3.00 can of soda.

Rating: ★★★

Performances are on Wednesdays only through July 28th with no shows on June 2nd or June 9th. Tying Up Loose Ends is a Breathe Life Production at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Check it out.

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