Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Mai"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey

"Mai" Day

A Review by Beverly Creasey

The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company, under the direction of Nora Hussey, actually performs year round. Because WST is a company, often you’ll see the same actors in quite different roles, which is one of the pleasures this arrangement affords. Another is that you are confidant, no matter what the play is, that it will be well produced---which brings us to their current presentation, Marina Carr’s THE MAI (playing through Feb. 3rd).

THE MAI tells the story of four generations of strong Irish women who, sooner or later, surrender their power to weak, ineffectual men who will leave them or betray them. When you think of a multi-generational Irish epic, you imagine poetic language and tragic romances but THE MAI, alas, is just a gussied up soap opera--- and mighty slow-moving soap opera, at that. It’s hard to believe that this is the same playwright who crafted compelling scripts like ON RAFTERY’S HILL and PORTIA COUGHLAN (which you may remember from their Sugan productions) -- but THE MAI doesn’t have the haunting immediacy and wit of her other work.

The sparkle in the Wellesley production comes entirely from the actors, not from the static material. Company regulars like Melina McGrew (as the resourceful title character who refuses to abandon a bad marriage) and Charlotte Peed (hilarious as an addled maiden aunt) can always be counted on for solid performances. Hussey gets fine comic work from Lisa Foley as a contentious, busybody aunt and from Gladdy Matteosian as the feisty, hundred year old, opium smoking matriarch of the clan (who gets the best bohemian costumes – designed by Nancy Stevenson).

Lauren Balmer plays the wildest of The Mai’s two sisters, while Sarah Barton is the most reserved of the three (No, there’s no Chekhov here). Heather Boas is the wounded narrator, imparting symbolic meaning to the landscape (Janie Howland’s gorgeous lake, seen through great arched glass doors). Justin McConnaughy is The Mai’s despicable husband, a thankless role if there ever was one (Howland’s twisted cello trees leave no doubt that he’s the dissonant chord).

"The Mai" (10 January - 3 February)
@ Ruth Nagle Theatre, Alumnae Hall, Wellesley College Campus, WELLESLEY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide