Peggy Sue Dunigan
Review

The Boulevard’s It’s Your Mother

By - Apr 4th, 2010 02:11 pm
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The Mother Mystique — that eternal connection to the person who helped carry, create and nurture a child — constantly defines a life, for better or worse. With an 87-minute exploration to this hot bed of feminine psychology and estrogen, the Boulevard Ensemble presents the new production It’s Your Mother in time to celebrate the traditional May holiday.

Playwrights Patricia Durante and Betsy Tuxill traveled to Milwaukee for the first opening of this Midwest premiere. Mark Bucher directed and made several changes to the initial production. Durante and Tuxill wrote the play to allow for rotating casts and to showcase emerging actresses, which the Boulevard uses effectively. A cast of 15 performed admirably.

The show comprises 10 vignettes, tied together by 20 voice mail messages. (Caller ID makes ignoring a mother’s phone call entirely too easy.) The vignettes represent conversations between daughters, mothers and sisters. As a woman, I have participated in these various life roles from either side. I’ve been asked what size dress I wore. I’ve cringed at that disparaging look in my mother’s eyes, as Brooke Wegner’s character does in The Couch. I’ve been criticized for feeding my children hot dogs, as depicted in I Don’t Want to Say Anything But…. I watched my own mother’s health deteriorate, as Shannon Nettesheim does in The Pretzels. Each vignette resonates with the truth heightened for comic or dramatic effect. The play is absolutely believable. However, some subtle restraint might have given these scenes a more nuanced feminine vision, of the type seen in the Milwaukee Rep’s recent production Almost Maine, a play comprising nine vignettes illuminating love. And while the vignettes reflect neurotic reality, the strike notes a little too close to Saturday Night Live sketches. The shortened format diminishes discovery of the deeper meaning of the feminine soul.

The play produces many comic and droll moments and makes for an enjoyable evening. But mothers might appreciate an extra dose of validation and acknowledgment of the actual sacrifices and concerns they face in contemporary society. Mothers make mistakes, say unfortunate words in the heat of tense moments, and beyond hope believe they are loved for being an imperfect person doing the best they can. The production’s backdrop filled with charming family photographs from the cast members recalls these realities. Leave the theater laughing; yet remember mothers and daughters when at their best, trying to love each other with all their heart.

(The Boulevard Theatre presents It’s Your Mother until May 9. For tickets: 414-744-5757)

Categories: Theater

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