Night’ Mother 10/21/10

REVIEW – LA THEATRE

I’ve never been a big fan of staged readings, especially those that feel they need to incorporate enough movement that the words are lost due to the distractions of needless pantomiming onstage. So many pieces are left scattered about and instead of watching a wonderfully put together puzzle of life, humor, drama… you’re left with confusion from the audience and the makings of a grease fire waiting to happen. However, to my surprise, the movement brought into this reading was anything but distracting and the performers were so in tuned with one other that you’d swear you were watching a finished production! Now perhaps it’s no miracle as both actresses are real life mother and daughter, but performing a piece of this nature, you need a capable cast to pull it off and a cast that already has a history can only up the stakes.

The play focuses on daughter Jesse (Lia Sargent) and mother Thelma (Mary Carver) or “Mama” as she’s referred to most often, and Jesse’s decision to commit suicide. Sargent and Carver bring not only the tender moments of drama fully to life, but inject just the right amount of humor into the reading so the evening isn’t left to be a complete downer, especially with the subject matter. Jesse and Mama share a curious and peculiar relationship with each other as Jesse’s decision is discussed over one evening while she nonchalantly organizes the house and reveals why she feels this is the best thing for her. Each actress is effortless and takes their time, never allowing themselves to be caught up in the pages, but instead, are able to effectively bring life to the words. Carver plays Thelma with a quick wit, vast knowledge and a lovable stubbornness that demands your attention. Her petite frame and earnest nature makes you want to reach out and hug her. Sargent brings an inquisitive light to Jesse and chooses her moments so well that you’re pulled from side to side in wondering will she do it, will she not? She plays against the choice of needing to feverishly vent her feelings, but instead chooses to simply talk. It works beautifully, especially against the willful and veteran advice from Mama. Some day, it would indeed be a treat to see both these talents bring this high stakes, heavy drama without books in hand onto the stage for all to enjoy. Until that moment arrives though, don’t be reluctant to treat yourself to an evening of watching how beautiful it is when the pieces do come together.