This week, In the theater, by Rose Desena
The World Premier, of “Surviving Mama”,
Written and produced by Sonia Levitin
I must say it is very refreshing to see a writer produce their own work. The economic down turn has made it very difficult for theaters to take a chance on new playwrights. I am a little tired of seeing the same old shows. If you are into the small theater scene here in LA you will notice that some of the same plays are done 2 to 3 times a year by different groups. One thing about LA, LA land has writers. Lots of them, they are everywhere. They take up most of the seats at Starbucks, so why theaters choose to stick with the same ol’ same ol’ is beyond me.
Last year three theaters did “Rabbit Hole.” Maybe it’s just laziness or fear of something new but it just doesn’t make sense. As I am checking the theaters for the coming seasons and I noticed some theaters are trying to move into more interesting and original productions. I welcome this. Good for you Sonia for taking the bull by the horns.
“Surviving Mama” deals with an issue that many of the baby boom generation is very familiar with, myself included. A strong willed, independent aged parent, who sacrificed everything of herself for her family: what does the family do now that she can no longer be on her own? Do they sacrifice?
As the play opens, we see a parent, Arva Rose as (Mama) in 1981 burning a meal on the stove while she naps. The daughters Sharon Rosner (Stella) and Gina Manziello (Ann) are once again convinced their mother can no longer be alone as they enter a smoky house that reeks. There is another daughter that we never see. The play moves back and forth between Berlin in the early 20’s. We hear a story of courage, sacrifice and love as a mother struggles to escape the horrors that happened to so many of her friends and family under the Nazis.
She manages, through the help of a priest (Matt Silver) and her own sheer determination to get her children to the safety of the USA, where she is reunited with her lover, Gustav (Peter Lucas), a happy, flamboyant and ambitious clothing designer who works hard to make a good name for himself. The story moves through personal stories of sorrow, sacrifice, regret and of course guilt. Lots of good old fashioned Jewish guilt. I am Italian and we have guilt too but my Jewish friends say theirs is worse, so I just have to trust them.
The stage set is absolutely brilliant and helps to move us back and forth from the present and the past. (Thanks to Designer Travis Tuyen Thi and his team). I like the way this play includes the family history back 3 generations.
However this Play does have a few structural issues which would be addressed by editing. The monologues tended to drag and thus many of the stories were lost to rambling, rendering the whole play too long and losing emotional impact along the way. I think it could have been done in 90 minutes tops. Editing certainly would have helped the pacing.
Arva Rose, works hard and puts some guts into her lines but I felt like she wasn’t getting the support from the other actors. Some actors seemed to be over compensating for those who were just flat. However, as the play runs and hits its stride, some of the acting should become more confident. The play has great potential and I would like to see it again if it was shortened and reworked a little.
Cast: Emily Dean, Jerry Lacy, Peter Lucas, Gina Manziello, Arva Rose, Sharon Rosner, Matt Silver.
Edgemar Center for the Arts
Main Stage, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405.
October 12- November 18, 2012
Fri. at 8:00, Sat. at 3:00 and 8:00, Sun. at 5:00.
RESERVATIONS: (310) 392-7327.
ONLINE TICKETING: www.survivingmamatheplay.com
Next Week, “Theater in the Dark” at the Odyssey Theater.