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05 June 2009

Like Mother

This is from the C-T. It is a review of two shows, but there is already a posting for I Wrote This Play..., so there you are.

Theater review: NC Stage does two comedies in repertory
Original post.

Jim Cavener I take5 Correspondent • published June 5, 2009 12:15 am

N.C. Stage Company is trying something different with its current repertory production of the comedy “Like Mother” and “I Wrote this Play to Make You Love Me.” The company has long considered a repertory session, with two or more plays and some of the same cast in production at the same time. For the early summer, comedies seemed to be in order.

“Mother” and “Wrote” are written by women writers/actors known to NCSC's founders from their days of theater in New York City, and both of whom had come to Asheville in recent years to appear in the theater's productions.

The third play in this series, “A Beautiful View,” was also on the company's radar screen, and will join the season on June 17th.

Both current works are somewhat autobiographical and both are billed as comedies, although both have serious, meaningful overtones. “Wrote This Play” is deadly serious much of the time, and is for the most mature audiences. The material and language is rife with candid sexual situations — think “Sex and The City” with no holds barred. This is hard-core candor, tough-talking topics and graphic language.

These two vehicles have much in common: youngish women, writing from their experience in theater in Gotham, starring in their own work. In “Mother” the playwright, Shannon Polly, is the only actor on stage, although voice-overs by Willie Repoley are quite vivid, yet the father-figure they bring is heard, not seen. “Mother” is seen from the perspective of the daughter of the proverbial stage-mother-from-hell. It's intensified by her daughter's marriage, and the mother's being “mother-of-the-bride” — with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.

In “Wrote” Anne Thibault interprets Lysette, with local stage presence Hans Meyer playing the male figures, notably Lysette's brother Zach.

But the major work is done by the author. It is the life story of a young actress, as told from the perspective of the too oft passed-over Lysette getting the role of her dreams, that of Nora in Ibsen's “The Doll's House.” The central events of her life are all of loss rather than gain, as in being abandoned by a mother, the loss of a brother, the distance and decline of a father, and the frustration and futility of having lots of sex, but little intimacy or affection.

Polly, of “Mother,” is charming, delightful and appealing as herself and her mother. This is a ribald spoof of dominating moms, but with some tender and authentic moments of genuine emotion, which keeps the fun from being saccharine and syrupy.

Thibault's “Wrote” is much more serious, and there is much poignancy and pathos. Thibault's character study of Lysette is wise and deep beyond her years, the writing is painfully beautiful, and her performing is well done. Both writers know how to construct drama and write contemporary dialogue that rings true.

A distinguishing aspect between these two effective plays is that “Mother” incorporates six splendid songs that advance the plot, with Polly able to belt the Broadway ballad with the best of them. Although the songs are not well known, they borrow from show tune genres, and even incorporate a few bars of familiar theater tunes, to good effect.

“Wrote” has to get all its mileage simply from the power of words, and there is a lot to be gotten from this script.

Jim Cavener writes on theater for take5