I can’t remember the last time I honestly cried while watching a stage production. But I did tonight. Currently playing in the Studio Theatre at the Beck Center for the Arts is “Night, Mother” written by Marsha Norman, and beautifully directed by Scott Plate. Recently, I have become involved in a suicide prevention project called Out of the Darkness. This organization reaches out to anyone in trouble and surrounding friends and family members. So my emotional reaction to the play has a deep connection. But I feel so blessed to have tonight’s story shared by such brilliant actors and brilliant direction.
“Night, Mother” is about a daughter, Jessie Cates (Laura Perrotta), who has come to a decision to end her life. From the very beginning of the play, she shares that information with her Mother (Dorothy Silver) in the middle of a routine conversation about what is on the agenda for today, and explaining lists that she has prepared. Jessie is epileptic and, coupled with numerous failed relationships and opportunities in her life, she has decided there really is no need to go on any further. As you can imagine, “Mama” (as she is called) spends the entire time trying to convince her daughter that she is wrong, and that there are many reasons to live. However, that conversation takes many twists and turns amid omissions, lies, and the truth. We spend 90 minutes, without intermission, in their world and it consumes us.
The play begins with the sound of clocks. Time is of the essence. The backdrop is just a living room and kitchen, giving space to two souls that will bargain about life and death. Laura Perrotta reinvents herself as Jessie. Her character seems numb and robotic as she goes about her business and, throughout the evening, we see the inner insight that comes through as the result of continuous conversation. Isn’t it true for all of us that, if we talk too much, we might share too much? Perrotta is magical as she continues her course of self destruction without missing a beat, but still managing to create humor, which is essential to the audience to provide some relief. She allows you to see into Jessie’s mind and have some acknowledgement of why it might be time to get off the bus. She is magnificent.
As Thelma “Mama” Cates, the elegant Dorothy Silver is compelling. Silver seems to know no boundaries in expressing emotion, will and connection. Watching her navigate through an unbelievable puzzle put in front of her, she is astonishing. Her timing is impeccable by asking questions that can incite laughs and then, seconds later, tenderness and the fear of loss. How does one battle talking to someone who has the feeling that nothing will ever get better? Silver embodies that fight. Her final plea to her daughter is heartbreaking and so real; I know that I felt like I had lost something very dear. She is magnificent.
And engineering this talent and this Pulitzer Prize winning script is director Scott Plate. Plate is an actor’s dream. He has the empathetic ear and Midas touch for crafting beautiful performances. Adjusting physicality where necessary, the play never loses its edge or purpose. He guides two powerhouses into an evening a stark realism, humor and tragedy. He is magnificent.
But I don't want to forget the technical aspects of the show that were just as on point. That includes the stage manager, which I believe should be mentioned whenever a show is called well. Those talented folks are:
Scenic Designer -- Aaron Benson
Costume Designer -- Tesia Dugan Benson
Sound Designer -- Richard B. Ingraham
Technical Director & Lighting Designer -- Joseph Carmola
Stage Manager -- Curt Arnold
Yeah. I liked it a lot.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 21 - May 4 (No shows April 18-20)
$12-$29 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107