By Stuart Miller
13 May 2012
|Photo by Gregory Costanzo|
Every once in a while a play comes along with a genuine mother of a maternal role: from Medea through The Glass Menagerie to 'night, Mother and Three Tall Women to more recent productions like Doubt, Well and August: Osage County. But this past season in New York City gave theatregoers (Off-Broadway and on) more memorable moms than most — in Other Desert Cities, The Lyons, Tribes, Russian Transport and Hurt Village — even if few of them could be considered role models to hold up as your family's matriarch on Mother's Day.
"You just can't get away from Mom," says Mare Winningham, whose character in Tribes, Beth, is the most likeable mother of the bunch. She says that mothers make a natural subject: "Mothers make these big, massive decisions as parents and then have to trust doing the right things and then have to live with them."
For Nicky Silver, The Lyons came about because his last play felt overly intellectual, so he "wanted to write the simplest play I could — take a family and let them talk. The character of Rita very quickly took center stage."
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Linda Lavin, who plays Rita, says that no matter what inspired this influx, it's a good thing. "Older women, especially mothers, don't often get to express their inner lives out loud."
These women, especially Rita and Polly, of Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities (played by Stockard Channing), have kept much of their inner lives secret even as they've cut their children with their brilliant yet barbed tongues.
But both Lavin and Channing point out that the children don't really know their parents well. In fact, Channing points out, "the misperceptions of our own parents is a major part of the play."
Lavin, who played Polly's sister in the Off- Broadway production of Other Desert Cities before moving on to The Lyons, says both plays are about "missed connections and poor communication."
Both women also think back to their own mothers often; Lavin has a picture of her mother — "a little woman with great positive energy" — in her dressing room.
Both Polly and Rita seem almost cruel at the start, but audiences' opinions of them shift as their true stories are revealed. "Nobody knows what Polly has done for her family until the last minutes of the play," Channing points out. "Her daughter writes a book about her mother because she thinks she knows her, but she really doesn't. The play shows the audience how we make these assumptions."
Baitz says that Polly may not be nurturing, but she's "driven by a profound sense of desire for security for her family. She's a very strong woman."Continued...