The play begins when Jessie tells her mother Thelma, who she lives with and takes care of in an Iowa farmhouse, that she's planning to kill herself that night. It's a shocking revelation, but Jessie doesn't play it that way, she's very matter-of-fact and pragmatic about the whole thing. She has everything planned out, and proceeds to tell her mother about all of the details of running the house, which she'll need to do by herself after tonight. Thelma moves through a variety of emotions, from thinking she's kidding, to trying to talk her out of it, to being angry about it, to acceptance. But Jessie never wavers, and the push and pull between them is heart-breaking to watch. Other characters (family members, friends) are mentioned but never seen, as the focus is on this very real relationship.
|Sally Wingert as Thelma and Sara Marsh as Jessie|
(photo by Rich Ryan)
Playwrights' Center Associate Artistic Director Hayley Finn directs her first Dark and Stormy show, and credit must be given to her for keeping the play grounded, real, and nicely paced. But what isn't grounded is the set. All set pieces, except for a comfy lived-in couch, are floating several inches off the ground, including a floating rocking chair, and a floating kitchen counter complete with sink and working stove and covered with Thelma's favorite foods (from many types of bulk candy to tuna and pickles). I'm not even going to begin to guess what that means but it adds some interesting food for thought.
'Night, Mother continues through September 8. Know what you're getting into, and be prepared for a difficult ride, as well as beautiful, heart-breaking, thought-provoking, conversation-starting theater.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.