Jacob Cooper & Susan Crocker in Our Mother’s Brief Affair. Photo courtesy Eve Theatre Co.
Our Mother’s Brief Affair
Written by Richard Greenberg
Directed by Gilmer McCormick
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
So, how would you react to a confession of adultery from your ailing mother? I am sure there would be a range of emotions: shock, anger, surprise. But, how would you react when the confession comes from a person who is sliding into dementia and has a habit of exaggeration? Should you believe her?
That is the quandary that twin siblings Seth (Jacob Cooper) and Abby (Susan Crocker) face as they cope with their addled mother, Anna (Susan McNeese Lynch).
The play is set in New York in 2003 but also takes us back in time to various points in Anna’s life.
As Seth takes care of Anna, he realizes that her end may be coming soon and calls in her sister Abby from California. As the family sits in the hospital room, Anna reminisces about her younger self and her motherhood, much to the chagrin of her children. Upon a reflection of when Seth went to Julliard to learn the viola, Anna remembers with great fondness how she would wait in the park while Seth was at his lesson. It is during this time that she gives a great smile recounting wearing a lovely raincoat and a Burberry scarf and meeting Phil (Tim Kitchen).
Of course, the questions start flying from the children about Phil and how long the affair went on. But, it isn’t at all black and white. As Anna continues her story she speaks of letters, lunches, and hotel rooms that they would share over the course of their affair. It is within the walls of the hotel room that the story goes onto a whole other track….Phil is not who he says he is, in fact…David Greenglass.
I won’t give you a complete history lesson about this person, but let’s just say he was involved in espionage and wrongdoings during the Cold War.
The children find it difficult to believe that their mother could be involved with such a person and try to come to grips with the possibility. As Anna explains how the affair transpired and how the revelation of Phil’s identity came into play, she reveals a dark secret that she had kept most of her life pertaining to her baby sister.
Anna views this defining moment as the beginning of a series of bad decisions, and when the siblings come across a book about Greenglass in her belongings and start asking questions, she gives a sly smile and we are left with a mystery.
Kudos to director Gilmer McCormick in her choice of actors as they did very well in keeping the New York accent present (save for a couple of slips) and the focus forward. While I think the pace could have been stepped up a smidge, it still kept my attention.
As Tim Kitchen played a couple of characters (or three) he gave each of them their own distinctive flair and personality. Susan Crocker’s turn as Abby was introspective and sincere and she also did well playing another, supporting role. Susan McNeese Lynch as Anna did so well in suspending time, recounting her younger days and floating between the present and past with dexterity. What I did notice was there were a few times that her delivery was disjointed, especially in her recollection about her sister that had me a little confused, and made it hard to follow for a few minutes.
Jacob Cooper’s Seth was the right blend of a good son, acerbic New Yorker and cautionary person. And great job with that accent.
While the story is, of course, about Anna, I would have liked to see more character development concerning the siblings. The only things we really know about them is that they are both gay, one has a family life while the other does not, Seth writes obituaries and Abby works at a library.
On the whole, the production team knocked it out of the park, especially lighting director Nick Dent, who chose the perfect cells and jells to highlight introspection and retrospection. The set design was simple and perfect for the story, as were the props – great job finding the oft-seen Acropolis Cup that New Yorkers have used to hold their coffee for decades. Stephen Reinhardt’s music direction was good and relayed the sound of the eras being talked about.
While the topic of an ailing mother with a dementia onset is not at all funny, there were parts of this piece that had the audience laugh out loud and those delicious moments were perfect.
A very enjoyable performance that makes you leave the theater with the question: Did she or didn’t she?
Our Mother’s Brief Affair
November 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, & 11 @ 7:30pm
November 5 @ 2:30pm
Eve Theatre Company
At Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.