The opening Downstage show at 2nd Story Theatre is "Eleemosynary" by Lee Blessing. The play probes into the delicate relationship of three singular women:the grandmother, Dorothea, who has sought to assert her independence through strong willed eccentricity;her brilliant daughter, Artie, who has fled the stifling domination of her mother;and Artie's daughter, Echo,a child of exceptional intellect and sensitivity whom Artie has abandoned to an upbringing by Dorothea. It follows the relationships of three generations of women. As the play begins Dorothea has suffered a stroke, and while Echo has reestablished contact with her mother, it is only through extended telephone conversations, during which real issues are skirted and their talk is mostly about precocious Echo's single minded domination of a national spelling contest. After a traumatic event Artie and Echo must learn to try to finally live together at last after many years of alienation. Director Mark Peckham elicits terrific nuanced performances from his well cast and talented actresses.
Mark blocks the show beautifully, has the actresses talk directly to the audience at times, getting them immersed into this script. He makes their relationships intertwined with each other bringing out the comic and poignant moments brilliantly to the audience. The set is by Max Ponticelli and the costumes by Ron Cesario. Eleemosynary means charitable or benevolent and is the word Echo wins the Spelling Bee with. The author uses these three characters to illustrate that family members should be forgiving to one another, in other words be charitable about others faults because everyone has them. All three women play their characters at various ages throughout the show to display their relationship with each other through the years. Blessing uses vignettes to tell the story of these three women and their need for forgiveness and connection with each other. Even though they are adversaries they love each other through it all. These three extraordinary actresses are Isabel O'Donnell as Dorothea, Sharon Carpentier as Artie and Valerie Westgate as Echo. They deliver marvelous performances of great depth and substance. Isabel's eccentric and wacky behavior is hilarious while Sharon's seemingly uncaring bitchy mother who abandons her daughter continuously yet finally grows up is wonderfully done. Valerie's continuous spelling of very hard words is amazing and mesmerizes you with her expertise also delivers the goods as Echo. So for a show that the audience can absolutely relate to, savor and understand as well as the chance to catch topnotch performers, be sure to catch "Eleemosynary" at 2nd Story Theatre.