Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alliance Theatre Lab: 'night, Mother (4 reviews)

Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother at The Pelican Theater on September 8, 2011.
Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, ‘night, Mother  takes a deep look into a mother-daughter relationship while making a disturbing statement about responsibility and courage. In this 90 minute harrowing story, the character’s interactions culminate into a disturbing, yet unavoidable, climax.
David Michael Sirois directed a cast that featured Sally Bondi and Aubrey Shavonn Kessler.

It should be noted that the company lost a preview to a power outage caused when a bus struck an electric pole.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...a moving production at the Alliance Theatre Lab at Barry University’s Pelican Theatre... 90 taut minutes...
Bondi and Kessler bring poignance to Mama and Jessie, a mostly housebound pair who have their share of troubles...
Director David Sirois... whose play The Brothers Beckett met acclaim in its world premiere at Alliance earlier this year, proves here as he did with his own play that he knows relationships. Mama and Jessie feel real... the director and actresses, along with set designer Mary Sansone, immerse the audience in the world of the pair’s shabby little home and their sad little lives.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The play marks the professional directing debut of David Sirois, a multitalented New World School of the Arts grad who is also Alliance’s resident playwright... His staging of ‘night, Mother is sure and clear, so directing is obviously one more thing in his dramatic toolkit.
Sirois is also very fortunate to have the inventive, fascinating Sally Bondi in the role of Mama. As full of life as her daughter is deadened, Bondi’s Thelma Cates is a woman of ever-changing emotional colors. She’s honest, critical, scared, furious, loving, desperate, manipulative – well, the list goes on and on, as Bondi creates a thoroughly believable country gal who accepts the cards life has dealt her.
As Jessie, Aubrey Shavonn Kessler has the greater acting challenge. Life has been one long, disappointing challenge for Jessie...Kessler has to convey the determination beneath her character’s almost incomprehensibly breezy manner as Jessie runs down a long list of the preparations she has made for her mother’s future life alone. The actress shifts from an initial disconcerting cheerfulness to emotional flatness. Perhaps that’s what Jessie needs to follow through with her meticulously planned exit, but Kessler’s muted performance allows the vibrant Bondi to dominate what should be a more evenly balanced tug-of-war over Jessie’s future.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Sally Bondi is Mama and Aubrey Shavonn Kessler is Jessie and I confess I've not been greatly enamored of either in previous shows....  But as the clock ticked on the two actresses found their footing, with Bondi ably handling the shock and horror of her daughter's impending suicide and Kessler giving the epileptic, forlorn and depressed Jessie a nice balance between the sanity of arranging her mother's future and the madness of taking her own life.
'night Mother would seem a difficult piece to enjoy; a dysfunctional family, sickness, death, loneliness, and sad, wry humor.   Not much to laugh at.  But the play is engrossing.  The time, there it is again, flies by.  This is actor/writer David Sirois' first outing as a professional director and he has done well.
Camille Lamb is a marginal improvement for the Miami New Times;
Though both actresses were impressive, Bondi was purely astounding in her portrayal of a gritty, no-nonsense broad with a not-so-deeply hidden emotional underbelly. Her loping gate, slick head of curlers, dark under-eye circles and gravelly voice conveyed a simple woman who's been worn out by an uneventful and largely loveless life.
As she tried over and over again to strike an effective chord with her cruelly recalcitrant daughter, Bondi painted an awfully realistic portrait of a baffled and beaten woman. By the end of the production, we, along with many other patrons, were wrenched to tears by the emotional immensity of her performance.
The intimacy of Barry University's Pelican Theatre, coupled with the actresses' gripping work, made us feel as though we were locked into the convoluted debate along with the players. Smells of gunpowder and matches pervaded the 44-seat auditorium, adding to the effect.
With the exception of rushed line delivery on the part of Kessler during the first 15 minutes, opening night of director David Sirois's presentation went off beautifully. Anyone who appreciates high quality small theater or psychological, emotional drama would be an absolute fool to miss this Alliance Theatre Lab production.
Alliance Theatre Lab presents 'night, Mother at Barry University's Pelican Theatre through September 25, 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment