Review: Dot by Colman Domingo, Ground Floor Theatre
by Justin M. West

The Ground Floor Theatre has a solid reputation for producing progressive and thought-provoking pieces. The last show I reviewed here, Some Humans Were Harmed…, left a lasting impression on me in a way that few have. So, too, did writer Lisa B. Thompson’s prior production, The Mamalogues, though I failed spectacularly to produce a review. I was therefore beyond disappointed to find that Thompson’s work as a director on Coloman Doming's Dot so widely misses the mark. 


(photo via GFT)Dot focuses upon its titular character, expertly played by Melody Fullylove. As the outright star of the show, she delivers a nuanced, layered, and powerful performance. As inertia drives Dotty ever closer to the inescapable precipice of dementia, she is frustrated, angry, and in pain. It shows. Fullylove acts with her entire body, hitting the highs and the lows and everything in between. 


Dot’s daughter, Shelly, played by Michelle Alexander, is also frustrated and in pain as she navigates the uncertainty and hardship of dealing with her mother’s decline— but she expresses these emotions differently. Very differently. Whereas Dot’s pain is expressed in exasperated hand-waving and matter-of-fact foot-stamping, Shelly expresses her frustration by shouting LITERALLY EVERYTHING SHE SAYS. EVERY. THING. And she isn't alone.


The dialogue is maddeningly loud and monotone. I noted, “Everyone in this family needs to have their blood pressure checked.” Everything is yelled. There is no respite from this until the second act becomes more subdued, but even then the dialogue frequently overlaps to create an unintelligible clusterfuck of words that makes one want to bolt from the room and just get some damn quiet. Maybe that was the point—and if so I could see that direction working for effect here and there. But it happens too often and for too long, and by the third or fourth of fifth time it has grown extremely tiresome. 


Just when you think you’ve heard it get as loud as it’s going to get, in comes Oktavea LaToi as Averie, Dot’s other daughter. LaToi is a firecracker, giving it her all, animated as hell; she’s fantastic. Unfortunately, Averie is also the most irritating character I have ever seen on stage. She comes screaming in from the periphery like a tornado, sucking up every cubic inch of air within a ten-foot radius and drowning the stage in a wailing klaxon of a voice that could wake the dead. It’s too much, too often, and everyone else is upstaged until things quiet down in the second act. Averie is an intentionally over-the-top character, an out of control nuclear reaction that desperately needed the director’s moderation. Alas, there was no such thing, and Averie steamrolls us.


This is the thread to pull. The actors in Dot are pretty damned great in their roles, with only one notable exception. We even get honest-to-god tears from Jeremy Rashad Brown as Donnie and from Michelle Alexander as Shelly. Patti Neff-Tiven is Jackie, the audience by proxy, stressed and confused but doing her best despite her naiveté. There’s tons of talent on the stage, but the weak script and weaker direction offer little to aim it. Nuance is eschewed in favor of shouting. Chemistry among this dysfunctional family is criminally absent. It’s everyone for themselves. 


Dot is an exceedingly long show, with an all-too-early intermission that gives false hope that the show might end before one’s ass has grown numb well before the three-hour mark. In those three hours, playwright Domingo and director Thompson pull a litany of social topics du jour out of a hat and decide, unsatisfied, to turn the damn derby over and use the rest as well. 


The entire second act of the show, longer than most  I've seen, plucks random plotlines out of thin air for no apparent reason, only to resolve them within just a few minutes. One example: an alcoholic father whose mention in the second act is so random as to evoke laughter. There's zero context for this “reveal” and zero continuity for it within the greater narrative. It doesn’t come up again. It feels contrived, because it is.


Most surprising is just how damned antiquated this show's conception of peoples and humor is. Donnie and his husband don’t argue about anything real, they argue about “skinny jeans.” Ha-ha, isn’t that just like “the gays,” as one character puts it. It does no good at all to feature gay characters prominently, only to portray them in a manner more consistent with homophobic 90's television than anything real. 


(photo via GFT)



Oh, and isn’t it so funny how people who learned English as a second language have trouble with idioms? Ha-ha. Boy, that’s a hoot! Those silly foreigners from the "third world" (check out NPR, "Memo to People of Earth - 'Third World' Is an Offensive Term!" and, p.s., that term doesn't include Kazakhstan anyway, as is evident in the UN Development Program's country list of Human Development Indices.) 


Exceptionally jarring are the racial/sexual epithets and generalizations tossed about. The audience recoils, audibly, uncertain how to react. If they're supposed to be funny, they aren't. If intended to shock,they do, but why? There's no catharsis. No teaching moment. The meanness and ignorance, both above and under the surface, have neither reason nor recourse. 


Even if playwright Domingo's handling of important social concepts were to be somehow given the benefit of the doubt—and I strain to think how it could be—his approach is wildly irresponsible.


Dot  climaxes—at last, thank God—with a prolonged bit of slapstick as Donnie gets to walk a mile in Dot’s shoes, so to speak, having put on glasses that allow him to see the world through his mother’s eyes. But since these affectations turn Donnie into a bumbling idiot, a moment clearly intended to be the show’s crescendo instead comes across as forced and unintentionally funny (read: cringeworthy). Those final moments sum up the rest of the performance quite well. 


It’s hard to understand how such a talented cast in such a noteworthy venue could have been squandered in this way. Dot is overly long and socially out of touch. It pretends to be the writer’s pipe dream of a cultural melting pot, but it totally lacks any real sentiment or feeling. In trying to do too much, some of which it shouldn’t have been attempted at all, the production ultimately achieves very little.


The real lesson here? Less really is more, sometimes.


At least the set was pretty awesome. 

by Colman Domingo
Ground Floor Theatre

May 13 - May 28, 2022
Ground Floor Theatre
979 Springdale Rd
Austin, TX, 78702

Performances May  12th – 28th, 2022.

 Tickets on sale now at