review by Frank O’Donnell
There’s very little mystery in “Night, Mother,” the newest offering from Counter-Productions Theatre Company. Very early on, Jessie announces, “I’m gonna kill myself, Momma.”
No need for spoiler alerts here. But what follows is a tense and intense study inside the mind of a thoughtful – perhaps thought-filled is a better expression – suicide.
Jessie (Audrey Lavin Crawley) lives with her mother, Thelma (Becky Minard). Jessie’s estranged son is troubled, and her husband has left her. Jessie is prone to fits, and often heavily medicated. Thelma’s reaction to Jessie’s announcement is simply, “It must be time for your medicine.”
“Night, Mother” is a case study of one suicide, and shows the various levels of grief before the act is committed. Jessie is calm and collected throughout it all, making lists for her mother to follow after she’s gone. Thelma experiences the grief – shock and disbelief, anger, making bargains, deep sadness. At the end, a little bit of acceptance.
Jessie lays out her reasons carefully. She’s cold all the time. She’s unemployable. She’s got epilepsy. Her son is a hoodlum. Thelma rejects them all. “You’re as normal as the next person… mostly,” she says.
It’s a slow-paced tennis match of wits, but you know all along that Jessie will win.
Director Valerie Remillard employs a light touch with her actresses. There is no preaching, just a real-life tableau that’s helped by a spare set that includes a table and chair set out of the kitchen of my youth.
That allows the story to be told by two superb actresses. Minard’s Thelma runs the emotional gamut, and convincingly. Crawley’s Jessie is stunning. Her performance is monotone with a few exceptions, yet amazingly expressive nonetheless.
“Night, Mother” is not a feel-good show by any definition, but it is a powerful bit of insight into the taboo topic of suicide.
Counter-Productions Theatre Company presents “Night, Mother” through November 25 at AS220’s Black Box Theatre on Empire Street in Providence. For tickets and information, visit www.cptcri.com.