“If God is a mother, what do you do if your mother dies?”
Jessica Dickey’s The Convent, at ART/New York, is going to tap into the gitzigst of some women and bring up issues in others.
As you enter the theatre you feel as if you stepped into The Sound of Music, thanks to Raul Abrego, who designed the set and projections by Katherine Freer. We have descended into a medieval cloister, that Dimlin (Annabel Capper), Bertie (Amy Berryman), Jill (Margaret Odette), Tina (Brittany Anikka Liu), Wilma (Lisa Ramirez) and Patti (Samantha Soule) have come to surrender their cell phones and electronic and get back to their true selves.
As the Mother Abbess (Wendy vanden Heuvel) tells them. “Women cannot follow men.” They are here to embrace their inner Goddess or the one that got stuffed down thanks to society’s norms. They are each given a nomen card to embrace, as a medieval avatar. In the deck Teresa of Ávila, Clare of Assisi and Hildegard von Bingen are among the saints. As their days go forward grace becomes a statement of their life wishes. A ritual called Head of Kings, which features a mild hallucinogen, so they may see who has made them step out of body and has helped alienation the participant from herself.
The six pilgrims become different pieces of ourselves. We have the good girl, the bad girl, the innocent, the free spirit, the workaholic, the unloved and the lost.
The major conflict her is the Mother Abbess, who mothers her flock and has failed to mother her own child, who is none too happy over the course of events.
The performances by this talented ensemble help bring the issues raised by the play to light. I especially enjoyed Samantha Soule layered performance.
Having mother issues myself, I could relate to the rage of the daughter. No psych babble is ever going to excuse a mother for not caring for her child. I know the “PC” correct versions is to except everyone as they are, but isn’t that a great excuse to hurt others? My mother was exactly like this abbess who takes her guilt and throws it onto her child claiming she is her own person, mother and God. What ever happened to asking for forgiveness and healing?
In the course of this play out of the 6 women, 4 turn to each other for acceptance and love. Somehow I think this demographic is a little off balance.
Directed with sensitivity by Daniel Talbott, whose staging enhances the play, we see the conflict women are having with freedom and where they stand in this world.
Jessica Dickey’s words flow but if you have mother issues, this play will push your buttons.
The Convent: Produced by Weathervane Productions and Rising Phoenix Repertory in association with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at the ART/New York Theaters Through Feb. 17th.