Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mourning Bubby"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"Mourning Bubbyy"

by Vera Gold
Directed by Sara Romersberger

Set Designed by Jimmy Vieira
Lighting Designed by Tim Biggins
Music by Kevin Lloyd
Production Stage Manager Sarah Reish

Leanie May (Mammaw).............................Vera Gold
Sudie Jean..............................Sara Romersberger
Margieline..................................Nancy Mehegan

It may be that Vera Gold is the best possible actress to play the dogmatically placid Earth-mother star of her own play. "Mourning Bubby" has a deep familiarity with the cadences and idioms of backwater Kentucky, and Gold delivers her lines with a pondrous, implacable determination just as she carefully places each foot in Jimmy Vieira’s small kitchen/dining-room set. The music of the accent and the rhythm of her movements capture the flavors of her play quite effectively. But effectiove detail is not enough to make her play come alive.

The conversations here are elusive and eliptical, returning again and again to the same subjects, until everything comes clear. The family’s youngest son died five years to the day before the play starts, heroically trying to save a pair of drunks drowning in the river. His elder brother has taken as a second wife a pushy hotel "maid" who demands acceptance as a full member of the family, while daughter Margieline has come home from homesick days in New York City to mourn the useless death of her brother. The subtle, complicated substructure of these eight dialogues and monologues, in this Lansdowne Street Playhouse production, remains submerged, muffled by the careful attention to detail that looks more like a workshop exercise than a fully finished production.

Perhaps director Sara Romersberger should not have cast herself as the pushy Sudie Jean. Though her performance is as quick and exposed as Gold’s is slow and hermetic, she seems not to have been able to shape the show with an objective eye. If so she might have made her own insecure position in this close-knit family more than a clash of style. Perhaps she might have given Nancy Mehegan’s monologs more focus, and more movement.

Young Margieline is part of this family yet unwillingly ready to outgrow it. "Mammaw" must shove this baby from the nest as surely as she must defend that nest from Sudie Jean’s interloping. The three wrangle, until the rock-solid matriarch gets what she wants. At least, that’s the potential of this strong little play, waiting to be realized.

( a k a larry stark)

"Mourning Bubby" (till 10 August)
96 INC.
Lansdowne Playhouse, 336 Lansdowne Street, BOSTON

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