Sunday, January 9, 2011

Florida Stage: Goldie, Max, and Milk (4 reviews)

Florida Stage opened its production of Karen Harman's Goldie, Max, and Milk on December 15, 2010
A wonderfully funny and beautifully caring new play that wraps you in its warm embrace and sends you back into the world with a smile. Max is a single lesbian who just gave birth. She’s unemployed, with a house that’s falling apart, an ex on the loose, and no clue how to nurse her four-day-old baby. Can Goldie, an Orthodox Jewish lactation consultant, guide Max into motherhood? Or will conflicting family values get the better of them both?
Margaret Ledford directed a cast that included Erin Joy Schmidt, Deborah L. Sherman, David Hemphill, Carla Harting, and Sarah Lord.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
There is nothing about the show's plot or theme to suggest that Goldie, Max, and Milk offers anything not more available for less money in an average Lifetime Original Movie. Certainly no synopsis could adequately preview playwright Karen Hartman's wicked gift for language, nor how exuberantly director Margaret Ledford and the cast of Florida Stage take up that language and make it sing.
Actress Deborah Sherman has disappeared entirely into the role of Goldie — she's almost unrecognizable...
Erin Joy Schmidt has blown every theater-loving Floridian's mind and touched every theater-loving Floridian's heart on innumerable occasions in the past decade, but she's an idiosyncratic actress. Her supreme gift is in communicating angst, and her performances are full of jittering nerves. She enlivens otherwise dull characters by amping up their energy levels and intelligence and underlining their exasperation and vulnerabilities. In Max, she has been given a character that perfectly matches her own dramatic tendencies.
The father of Max's child is Mike, her departed girlfriend's 24-year-old, drug-dealing baby brother, played with game understatement by w√ľnderkind David Hemphill.
The way Hartman's smart-crazy dialogue is negotiated by Schmidt, Sherman, Hemphill, and the diminutive comic dynamo Sarah Lord — who plays Goldie's prickly, precocious daughter, Shayna — elicits a constant low roar of happy laughter from the audience, the eruption of which does not abate till a ways into the second act.
The drama of the second act is driven by an unlikely suicide attempt and an even unlikelier kidnapping, neither of which would be a problem if the former didn't result in a long, needlessly preachy hospital scene that soaks up much of the play's momentum.
Goldie, Max, and Milk doesn't need preaching. When it relies on the warmth and strength of its characters, they say all that needs saying.
Jan Sjostrom finally got around to reviewing it for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Karen Hartman’s play, which is receiving its world premiere at Florida Stage, doesn’t have a real focal point. Ostensibly, it’s about Max, the abandoned single mom coping with maternity. But the play wanders off in so many directions that Max’s story is diluted and loses emotional traction.
Under Margaret Ledford’s sympathetic direction, every character gets to make his or her case.
Sarah Lord, as Goldie’s closeted lesbian daughter Shayna, is a real find. She’s a luminous presence on stage and her comic timing is superb.

Deborah Sherman inhabits Goldie as though she’s been born in her skin. Goldie covers the most ground, moving from spot-on comic double-takes to volcanic rage to heart-wrenching reconciliation.

Timothy Mackabee
’s scenic design presents Max’s dilapidated apartment in its full squalor, complete with peeling paint, clashing colors and exposed wires.
John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Erin Joy Schmidt (Max) and Deborah Sherman (Goldie) are talented actresses who have deftly transformed themselves for their roles. Schmidt plays the frazzled new mother to perfection, allowing room for her character to be illogical and emotional when needed. Her conflicted feelings toward her ex-partner Lisa (Carla Harting) present themselves with a blend of reality and humor. Harting plays the role with a convincingly mischievous half-smile that is almost enough to make Max forgive her and take her back.

Sherman has been so inhabited by the spirit of an older Orthodox Jewish woman that she is nearly unrecognizable.
The play is so estrogen-driven by the female prospective, however, that it feels like it intentionally excludes and/or denigrates men. It can be no accident that the only man in the play is represented as a none-to-bright, weak-willed drug dealer. While we hear talk of motherhood, there is little mention of the value of fatherhood. Even Goldie's references of her husband paint him as a passive presence in the life of her family. The repeated moments of breastfeeding on stage actually become tiresome. Please make your point and move on. Though the author is lucky to have her work placed in the skillful hands of actresses Sherman and Schmidt, Goldie, Max, & Milk is just a good but not great production.
It seems to me that if someone is writing a play to examine a woman trying to raise a child without a man, throwing a man into the mix would kind of undermine that point.  And since Goldie is there to teach Max how to breastfeed, it might be a bit of a stretch to dismiss that activity right away; after all, once Max knows how to breastfeed, she won't need a breastfeeding coach, will she?  Just sayin', John.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Hartman skillfully creates a sturdy architecture for the evening and peoples it with delightfully quirky complex characters who teeter close to Cartoonland, but never fall over the edge. But it’s her language and the ideas she investigates that elevate the work to the level of something well worth seeing.
It takes nothing away from the quality of Hartman’s script to say that she is blessed here with the direction of Margaret M. Ledford and a cast who clothe her craft with an extra layer of life. The actors bring a passion to its execution on stage that make you empathize with the characters even as you laugh at their silliness.
Schmidt, who was brilliant in Fifty Words this year, convincingly charts the arc from a helpless quivering mass with a quavering whine to a sane, confident woman who finds that her selfless love of the child helps her come into her own adulthood.

Sherman, who was the tough lesbian in No Exit this year, smoothly meshes all of Goldie’s conflicting and conflicted qualities in yet another skilled performance. Hemphill, Lord and Harting, as well, bring an extra dimension to their characters.
This is the first intimate drama that Florida Stage has produced in its new space at the Rinker Playhouse... While the three-quarter thrust stage here will never have the cozy feel of Manalapan, Ledford’s staging shows that the space can work...
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
If the play is a bit too schematic in the way it metes out the lessons learned by opposite extremes, it still manages to win us over with its humanity and its heart-on-the-sleeve argument for tolerance.
Promethean Theatre’s resident director Margaret M. Ledford makes her Florida Stage debut by gently reining in the play’s potential for caricature. This is particularly the case with Deborah L. Sherman’s earnest Goldie, a woman full of practical wisdom and a religious code that knows no compromise. She meets her match in Erin Joy Schmidt (Max), endearingly clueless on child-rearing, but with a natural maternal instinct...
Sarah Lord is a petite wise-beyond-her-years dynamo as Shayna, Carla Harting manages to add some dimension to Lisa, the play’s villainess, and
David Hemphill handles well the odd-man-out role of Lisa’s brother Mike, the sperm
donor dad who moonlights as a drug dealer.
The Florida Stage production of Goldie, Max, and Milk runs through January 16, 2010.

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