March 8, 2003

 

Eleemosynary

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

For more about BareBones Theatre Group, and SPAC, please visit barebones.org.

"Never have a daughter. She wonít like you." Such is the reality and fear that lives within the tenuous relationships between three generations of women in BareBones Theatre Groupís production of Eleemosynary. Playwright Lee Blessing, a man, captures the intricacies of female relationships in this touching piece of drama.

Director Dana Childs proves that a good script and solid acting belies the need for fancy sets and extravagant costumes. Northwest School of the Arts freshman Caroline Fisher displays remarkable talent as the granddaughter of stongwilled Dorothea, played by Linda Fisher, and the daughter of the emotionally distant Artie, played by Camille Dewing. As Echo, a child caught between two willful adversaries, she exudes intelligence and common sense.

Like all of us, the three generations of women in this family are victims of the time and place in which they were born. When Dorothea wants to be a college student, she is coerced into being a wife and mother. When her daughter Artie wants to be a mother, she is coerced into being a student. Echo, who is just a child, is not allowed to be a child. Fortunately for her, she is mature enough to parent her two elders. Joyfully, the three women successfully redefine themselves into roles in which they excel. And while their relationships to each other are difficult, they never give up on them entirely.

Echoís passion is spelling, and she takes great joy from befriending marvelous words such as quiddity (the essential nature of a thing) and eleemosynary (of a charitable nature). Dorothea, who responds to her daughterís pregnancy with the words, "Youíll be just something a child needs," redefines her own life when she realizes that "no one holds an eccentric responsible." This revelation gives her the power to fulfill the role that was thrust upon her, while living large on her own terms. Artie, who has been intellectually burdened with the inability to forget anything, abandons motherhood to become an academic researcher.

This lovely play is full of dialogue that has a reason to be spoken, and actions that make sense within the context of the characters. Scenic artist Sandra Gray has created a beautiful replica of a Marc Chagall goddess/angel on the stage floor, upon which the characters repose at various interludes. Queens University student Corin Beam composed original music for the production, which she plays behind the curtain on a guitar and piano.

Sometimes children give their mothers more than they deserve. Sometimes mothers are held to impossible standards. And sometimes they have the strength of character to separate the good from the bad.

Lynn Trenning, March 8, 2003

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