Your Mother is 72 going on 15
Parley Productions, produced a “micro-production” of The Oysterman’s House by Susan McNallly, at their University Heights space this weekend. A “micro-production” is a stripped down production with minimal props, set and costumes ( and indeed, in this micro-production, minimal actors) through a playwrights organization trying to make theatre accessible to all, by staging original works to a pay-what you can audience. Parley Productions seemed to have had a successful night because every seat was filled and the “micro-production” was an excellent show-case.
If anyone has ever had a mother or mother-in-law from hell, they will be able to relate to this play. Or, if they have ever been foolish enough to take a vacation with their elderly parents and their spouse they will recognize all the conflicts and characters. It is a situation which shows up regularly in the newspapers advice columns; how do you manage a big family reunion type vacation with adult children, and how do adult children maintain their adulthood during long periods of exposure to controlling parents.
For the three characters on vacation together it isn’t easy. Irene, a controlling, manipulative, narcissistic 72 year old mother, who is loosing her eyesight, while looking after an infirmed slightly older husband, does not have the emotional maturity or practical skills to deal with her appropriate fears except by guilt-tripping her only child, a daughter, Kate.
Kate is locked into a tango of love-suffocation with her mother and has never been able to set appropriate boundaries, the effects of which are destructive in her marriage, to Ronan, who at times tries to be dutiful, but at others just gives up in frustration.
A slight plot weaves it together, Irene’s desire to finally see the oysterman’s house, mentioned in Henry David Thoreau’s writings, and Kate and Ronan’s dilemma about whether to move away from Kate’s parents to some great job opportunities.
It is a universal problem all of us face. As adult children, how to we function as adults and stay close to our parents, as parents, how we let go of those close ties to our children as death and infirmity close in upon us.
The dialogue was spot on and the playwright cleverly gave all the witty and sarcastic lines to the son-in-law, and in casting the father, had a very funny gimmick, which surprisingly not only was easy on the budget but worked extremely well on every level. For a “micro-production” the sound effects were worthy of a Disney production!
Although there were some flaws in the structure; the exposition was too long, it was an enjoyable evening and a promising play.
The Oysterman’s House by Susan McNally, Parley Productions. University Heights Community Center. 5031 University Way NE. Seattle U-District 98105 ( Just North of 50th St. on the Ave) Pay What You Can. Wheelchair Accessible. https://www.uheightscenter.org/events/parley-presents-the-oystermans-house-saturday-show