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'Night Mother, by Marsha Norman
The Truth in "'Night Mother"
Saturday, January 19, 2008
5.0
Tonight I went to see Marsha Norman's "'Night Mother" at Theatre On Main in Acworth. It was an amazing experience.

The script is a masterpiece. I hope someday to be able to write so well. The dialogue is natural. The characters are believable. The story is sensible. The theme is captivating. Jesse, divorced and living with her mother, informs her that she has decided to end her own life. Having walked a path very much like the one Jesse walks in "'Night Mother," I'm compelled to suspect that the author has "been there."

Teresa Harris plays Thelma, Jesse's mother. Teresa is a marvelous actress, capable of carrying an audience through a broad range of emotions in a remarkably short time without jarring or confusing them. When she acts, she does so on every level of consciousness, and a few subconscious ones. She doesn't just say her lines, she lives them, and engages her audience to live the part vicariously through her. I've seen her in comedic roles and intensely dramatic ones, and I don't know that I've ever seen anyone make a role more real and bring a character to life the way she does. Her performance in "'Night Mother" is exemplary of that.

Carolyn Sheppard Choe directs the show and plays Jesse. Having directed a production of "'Night Mother" before, she writes in the director's notes in the program, "Seventeen years ago I couldn't imagine how life for Jesse could be so empty that she would want to kill herself. Today, I still can't." Yet, as one whose life contains a chapter strikingly similar to what Carolyn portrays on stage, I found her interpretation so profoundly and eerily genuine that I was moved to tears.

I was warned before going to see "'Night Mother" that it was depressing. I can see why it would be for some - perhaps for many. But, because of how I was able to connect with Carolyn's character, I was able to connect with who I was at another time in my own life. Watching it from the outside was a revelation to me that was, in certain ways, liberating.

Suicide is a deeply personal, menacingly complex issue that few can relate to or understand. It's so much more than what it appears to be on the surface. Marsha Norman's script and the performances of Carolyn Sheppard Choe and Teresa Harris succeed in pealing away some of its fašade to reveal the dilapidation underneath without compromising the dignity of the precious, tortured souls afflicted by it.

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