Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews


Mother – Los Angeles Theater Review




picture - MotherTheater Review

by John Topping 

published June 26, 2010 



now playing in Los Angeles at the Studio at the Elephant  

Fridays through July 30 


It's difficult to review a one-woman show when that woman is clearly talented as an actress and the story that she tells is not exactly uninteresting; yet as a piece of theater, there is, unfortunately, nothing urgent to report.  Once upon a time, a critic asked about Woody Allen's movies: "Sure, his movies are good therapy for him, but why do we have to sit through his sessions?"  To some degree, this sentiment applies to Mother, written and performed by Mary-Beth Manning.  In 90 or so minutes, Manning shares with us the story of her relationship with her mother, from the time she was a little girl who was convinced that her mom wanted to kill her to the six-phone-calls-a-day co-dependent relationship it became as an adult, and up to her mother's death from cancer and a bit beyond.  Manning vividly introduces us to all the key players – her father, her sister, and whoever the latest alcoholic-she's-in-a-relationship-with may be.  But primarily and most memorably, it is a series of conversations between herself and her mother – many on the phone – who has a delightfully thick Boston accent (I love thick East Coast accents, so it was music to my ears).  That short-lived  worry of maternal filicide was a strong memory but not something that defined their relationship.  In fact, Manning's mother was very supportive of her being an actress from a young age (she started acting professionally around age 12) and presented no obstacles to her decision to move to New York and later to Los Angeles.  She didn't approve of her string of alcoholic boyfriends, but that's just a mom being a mom.  The only alarming aspect was those multiple daily phone calls.  Thus her central issue was (and is) separating and detaching from her mother and gaining a bigger sense of autonomy.  She is helped along by the final major character we meet, her psychiatrist, a no-nonsense, I-calls-it-like-I-sees-it kind of guy.  It's confessional theater, but it's completely inoffensive.  And although you will not feel that 90 minutes of your life have been stolen from you, unless you're a casting director looking for a tall, blonde, lanky, short-haired character actress … the question posed to Woody Allen must be asked.


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