The Seeing Place Theater presents two masterful plays that highlight parent child relationships. Both plays have something to say about grief, mental health, and how the desire to connect can affect a person’s life. Thematically, it makes for a heavy night, but it’s not without faults or comedic moments.
A Number by Caryl Churchill lays out the long term aftermath of a father’s decision and desire to hold on to a child he wanted and thought he lost.
Initially, the dialogue was not quick enough to generate the driving tone that is characteristic of Churchill’s body of work, and it came to pace occasionally. Unfortunately Michael Stephen Clay is a one tone actor, while Brandon Walker is working in every scene to heighten the urgency by reacting to what Mr. Clay is not giving him. Mr. Walker’s talents are apparent; he created three genuine characters through subtle mannerisms, postures and vocal qualities.
‘Night, Mother by Marsha Norman chronicles Jessie’s (Erin Cronican) last night at home with her mother (Carla Brandberg) before she commits suicide.
Carla Brandberg and Erin Cronican are excellent scene partners. Despite her hoarse voice, Erin Cronican created a busy yet apathetic caregiver, who simply wanted to check off her list. Ms. Brandberg is absolutely brilliant, her Mama has a warm presence and an icy tongue – two things necessary to highlight the unique cruelty only mothers can deliver.
Lighting designer Joyce Liao played a heavy role in ‘Night, Mother. It was very subtle, but the lights were slowly turn red as the play progressed – leading to the inevitable suicide. As sound designer, Brandon Walker also snuck in a ticking clock that stopped with the gun shot.
The set (designed by Erin Cronican) was a detriment to both plays. It was not the design that failed the actors here, it was the layout of the design. All of the furniture was set up in a diagonal row, pinning two corners of the stage with furniture that was rarely used, and leaving the other two corners with no excuse to occupy them. While the directors’ intent in both plays is present, the physically limited playing space stifles the dramatic potential. Additionally, the actors’ movement did not always feel natural because of the set layout; a few times they seemed to invent movement or activity that didn’t made sense in the context of the moment.
Despite the often awkward movement, the pairing of these two plays makes for an intriguing evening of theatre, and demonstrates the unified vision of The Seeing Place Theater.
A Number/ ‘Night Mother, The Seeing Place Theater, The Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th St. Closes January 20.