note: entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark
Basic Conception by Brenda Cotta Escalera & Noelia Ortiz
Co-created by Escalera, Cortes, Emily Bender, Lin-Ann Ching, Tina D'Elia & Amy Lee
with original material by Leo Cabranes
Directed by Brenda Cotta Escalera
Assistant Director Emily J. Bender
Lighting Design by Holly Ratafia
Sound Design by Lisa Kaplan
Costume Design by Jennie Hughes
Stage Manager Amy Lee
Mariena....Noelia Ortiz Cortes
The three women onstage in "MOTHERlands" embody three different kinds of love: the love between a daughter and her mother; the love between a Puerto Rican mother and The Virgin; the love of two young women for one another. Any combination of any two of them could bring perfect happiness, but trying to juggle all three brings on pain and constant conflict. This minimalist exercise in pure theater registers its effects with ritual and gesture, with three chairs, three brightly-colored sheets (blue, red, white), and a long red rope that can be a clothes-line one moment, an umbilical telephone-line the next. There is Spanish and English and Latin, intense drama and shriek-funny comedy, proving only that the course of these three loves never can run smooth.
The details would take longer to explain than they did to execute. At one point mother, a glove held to her left hip, dances with a face-mask wearing a hat, evoking the tall man who danced with her, tried to flirt with her, to kiss her, to rape her. Yet for all its vivid intensity this is but a memory explaining her fierce hope that, as she had, her daughter will be chosen to portray The Virgin in the village religious pageant. These higgledy-piggledy ideas and images burn in isolated precision, making a coherent logic all their own, till the trio stands as it began, held together by that red rope, remembering a dream of The Virgin --- but this time, perhaps, reconciled.
The group uses mime and a handfull of minimal props to outline the near madness of a mother incapable of admitting what her eyes can see, the near madness of a daughter incapable of sacrificing mother or lover, and the near madness of the woman who must to ask that choice. The incidents from their lives together, now on Puerto Rico, now in Boston, now in Andover, now at two ends of a phone-line cracked like a whip, now reconnected by Internet E- mail, now totally separate while they're all in the very same room --- these incidents spill from memory and imagination, honed to their essence as human interaction, conflict, and occasional bursts of hilarity. This theater of the mind singles out words, songs, reactions and interactions, memories, all real for an instant, vanished the next, till the timeless hour and a half comes to a halt --- and echoes, endlessly, in the mind for ever after.