Wednesday March 29th 2017

“Mother (and Me)” reviewed by Mark Levine

motherRecommended ***

The Premise: Melinda Buckley, a Broadway performer and comedian, recounts the story of her shifting relationship with her mother, from larger-than-life Hungarian beauty and eager daughter to frustrating mother with dementia and frustrated actress trying to balance it all together.

Made up of both ordinary moments and moments of real darkness, the story is constructed in a very predictable way that makes every moment feel the same.  It could use some editing; it would be more effective as a tight hour, then a bit rambling 90 minutes.  But there’s a lot in there to relate to, and the moments that work really land.

The Performance: Ms. Buckley is clearly at home on the stage. As she phased from one situation to another, hopping through time, it was always clear exactly where we were, almost to a fault.  It felt as if Ms. Buckley were used to playing to a bigger audience, taking long pauses between stories that dragged a bit.  There was a generally even rhythm throughout and some changes in tempo, especially the transitions, would have added a bit more zest to the piece.

The most successful bits involved Ms. Buckley transforming her emotional state into the announcer at a horse race, or the host of a show called “This Is Your Goddamned Life.” Entertaining and effective, these moments showed off her comic side, provided us clear pictures of her feelings, and moved the story along.

Overall, she gave a touching, if not daring, performance that kept me engaged, if not thrilled.

The Production: There was not much to the set: a black stage, a stool, some lights and sound effects. Ms. Buckley wore dark blue that often disappeared against the black background. When there’s not much to start with, every bit counts and a touch of color somewhere would have given more dimension to the stage. As it was, she often felt like a floating head in the darkness, guiding us through both the mundane and traumatic of her life.

Ms. Buckley’s story is fascinating and worth telling, but I’d encourage her to do more with it, find ways to get deeper about the situation and express it more dynamically on stage. The story can sustain it and so can she.

Melinda Buckley does her thing at the Greenhouse Theater through August 14 with performances as follows:

soloAugust 11 at 8pm

August 12 at 8pm

August 13 at 2:30pm and 8pm

August 14 at 2:30pm

Tickets range from $25-$30 and be purchased online at www.greenhousetheater.org or at the box office at 773-404-7336.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mother (and me)”

 

 

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