Tamara Dearing. Photo: Jonathan Cherry
By Laura Marks
Directed by Steve Moulds
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Pregnancy and childbirth are layered with cultural assumptions and elevated expectations. Women are both vilified and deified for the experience and some diabolical mythology has developed over the ages. Laura Marks takes all of this into consideration in her play, Mine, a unique horror story.
Nestled in a birthing tub, Mari (Tamara Dearing) gives birth to her baby in the opening scene, aided by her husband Peter (Neil Mulac) and midwife Joan (Ebony Jordan), but after the first night, she is convinced that her baby has been swapped out for another; the reassurances of her mother Rina (Carol Tyree Williams) fail to calm her and an encounter with an enigmatic stranger in a nearby park (V. Reibel) only fuels her paranoia.
Marks is exploring the notion of dark whimsy in concert with developing psychosis, which makes Mine a horror story for the new age of disassociative disorder. One of the key characteristics of Post Partum Depression is the lack of empathetic bonding of the mother for her newborn child. Mari’s exclamation, “she’s not my baby!” will ring true for anyone who has experienced PPD or been close to it, but will strike others as a violation of the sacred covenant, a response triggered by the overwhelming veneration of motherhood, especially in Western society. And the play builds a fascinating connection between fantasy mythology and mental illness that will dwell in your imagination long after you have left the theatre.
Tamara Dearing makes Mari’s fragile state of anguish palpable, and it forces us to question our allegiance to the character. We want her to find her answers but cringe at the implications they might bring. Amy is a singular character grounded in the seemingly impossible and might be the trickiest role, but V. Reibel gives her an appropriately otherworldly aura and credibility with great authority. Reibel once graced local stages with an exuberant talent but has returned after two years away to display greater maturity and assurance in her craft.
The text makes it their play to win or lose, which is not to diminish the very good work of Mulac, all anxious father balanced with a newfound sense of purpose, Williams, pushing off the easy clichés of the doting mother to make Rina something more, and Jordan, an actor of real power who here lends an understated but still authoritative presence to the mix.
Director Steve Moulds, who understands that less is more in a space as intimate as The Barons Theatre, must share credit for the discipline in performance. Nothing is rushed, nothing is forced, and even the nearly incomprehensible unfolds in an almost organic fashion.
Jesse Alford (set and lighting design) and Hollie Collins (costumes) help to make this world seem natural and recognizable, and Steven York lends some discreet but on-point sound design.
If you knew everything you will encounter in Mine ahead of time, you might find reasons to stay away, but Theatre  has always had a knack for selecting plays that challenge us to consider difficult parts of the human experience in a thoughtful context. Not necessarily comfortable, but accessible. That pregnancy and childbirth should be counted as such a topic may feel unusual, if not unprecedented. Whatever your level of squeamishness, Mine has reward enough to take the risk.
November 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 & 9 @ 7:30 PM
November 3 @ 2:00 PM
The Baron’s Theatre
131 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.