October 20, 1994
PREMIERE: La Mama Annex – NYC
Written by Patricia Spears Jones
Directed by John Edward McGrath
“For the opening of its 25th season, Mabou Mines has returned to La Mama, where it was born, for the first time since 1972, with a spectacular staging of “Mother,” written by Patricia Spears Jones and starring Ruth Maleczech, one of the troupe’s founders. The performance — continuing on Thursdays to Sundays through Nov. 6 — is a perfect emblem of this innovative company: a multimedia collage that is memorable, exhilarating and disorienting.
Ms. Maleczech is some mother. Her character says she hates her role and would rather be dancing than caring for her son, a budding revolutionary. And her song “Is This What Every Mother Does?” could leave a listener feeling guilty for being born. But if this mother spends much of her time cleaning and worrying, and if, like Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, she sees life only in a mirror, she turns out to be the most dedicated rebel in an age of revolution.
Despite Ms. Jones’s anger and her heavy irony about some famous revolutionary rhetoric, under John Edward McGrath’s direction this performance is more memorable for what it is than for what the play is about. The audience sits in seven island kitchens that surround the performance space and are complete with refrigerators that can be raided for beer and soda, microwaves to pop popcorn in and television sets with minds of their own.
The action sweeps across the floor and up walls to the ceiling in the vast annex at La Mama (74A East Fourth Street, East Village). Columns of workers riot in dances that look like animated versions of 1920’s Soviet posters and battle with police spawned in an Orwellian barnyard. Political prisoners are jailed in the sky. Agitators dangle midair. A spy carries a blinding beam of light around in a valise that talks.
The kitchen television sets spread distraction through haphazard bursts of documentary and they take over the action of the play entirely in its closing moments. Throughout all this, the crystalline music of Carter Burwell sets a tempo for both movement and dialogue that makes the performance seem like nothing so much as a daydream. Messages seldom survive daydreams, so, if there is one here, who will remember? It’s the dazzle and the fun that matter.”
D. J. R. BRUCKNER – New York Times
Music by Carter Burwell
Sets and Lighting by Paul Clay
Choreography by David Neumann
Video by Myra Paci and Allison Astor
Film by Tony Gerber
Costumes by Kasia Walicka-Maimone
Sound by Robert Leone
Ruth Maleczech (Mother)
Oscar de la Fe Colon (Son)
David Neumann (Spy)
Darryl Theirse (Revolutionary)
Ching Valdes-Aran (Activist)
La Mama ETC, NYC (1983)