By Bridgette M. Redman
There is little more difficult in life to interpret than a mother-daughter relationship. It is an unwritten history from a war in which there is no victor to claim the rights of telling the tale. Playwright Lee Blessing portrays the intricacies of these relationships so well it’s hard to fathom that he’s never been in one himself. Perhaps, though, it takes an observer to capture the authenticity of all parties fairly.
As challenging as Williamston Theatre’s Eleemosynary is to pronounce or spell, those tasks are child’s play compared to the difficulty and depth of the relationships between Dorothea, Artemis and Echo. They are a trio of strong-willed women whose need for independence means they spend much of their lives regretting the harm they’ve done to each other.
Not that these are cruel women. In the hands of Julia Glander (Dorothea), Rebecca Covey (Artie/Artemis) and Michelle Meredith (Echo), these three women are so sympathetic it hurts to watch them as they scar each other in an attempt to survive with their own person intact. There is resentment and misunderstanding, but there is also love and determination.
What is it that causes them to do such harm to each other? For a mother to smother her daughter who in turn abandons her daughter? For a daughter to shove her mother away and look with shame upon her eccentricity, while the daughter of the next generation blackmails her elders to force them back together? Eleemosynary. Charity. The giving of alms. Each of them, by trying so desperately to provide what they think the other needs, fails to see the real need. They give to each other what they needed rather than what the next generation needed.
Director Lynn Lammers excavates the myth within the story so that the play isn’t about these three women so much as it is about all mothers and what women pass on to the next generation, all with the most passionately idealistic of intentions.
She found excellent actors to portray these highly intelligent and passionate women who are distinctly different, but have in common extraordinary abilities. Glander embodies the eccentricity with a charm that can seduce even the most highly rational of individuals. Covey is haunted by memory and keeps herself stiff and separate from the two women who so desperately want her to be a part of their lives. Meredith moves easily between the perceptive teenager, a precocious schoolgirl, a demanding toddler and the driven spelling bee competitor who is convinced that victory will make everything right in her world.
Together the three have such an ease that they believably create relationships of women who, however tense they are with each other, have a great familiarity and love for one another. The characters intimately misunderstand each other and fail to respond with an emotional maturity to match their towering intellects.
Three shattered backdrops provide platforms for each of the three women to live out the failings of their relationships. Set Designer Bartley Bauer created imposing pieces in warm colors that sharpened the emotional kaleidoscope played out before them. The abstract design transports the audience immediately to a place where the fantastical more accurately portrays the truth of the relationships than a representational or realistic set.
Underneath the complex relationships and heartbreak are the joy and love that Lammers and her trio of actors celebrate. This is a play for any woman who has been a mother or a daughter and for any man whose life has been touched by a mother or a daughter. It’s a play for anyone who wants to come to peace with a relationship where everyone wanted what was best and succeeded only in driving each other away.
SHOW DETAILS: Eleemosynary continues at Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston, Thursday-Sunday through June 12. Tickets: $18-$24. For information: 517-655-7469 or www.williamstontheatre.org.
re-printed from Encore Michigan, the premiere website for Michigan Theatre News!Share