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Eleemosynary

CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Lee Blessing

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 2080

SHOWING : January 19, 2007 - February 24, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Sensitive and probing, this masterful play examines the subtle and often perilous relationship between three remarkable women: a young woman, Echo, her mother, Artie, and her grandmother, Dorothea.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Adriana Warner
Artie Margarita Moldovan
Echo Rachel Moldovan
Dorothea Mary Sittler
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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For some, words are easier than emotions.
by line!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
5.0
Note: I originally wrote the bulk of this review in September 2006 when “Eleemosynary” was being performed as part of Kudzu’s “Lunchtime Matinee” series. It was a strong show then and, I believe has matured into an even stronger one now that it is on the main stage at Kudzu. I have updated some of my opinions from the original review and added some thoughts regarding a change of one cast member from the original show...

One of the “given” things about Community Theater is that, so often, the shows are lightweight in nature. Community theater groups frequently pick material that will easily entertain, put butts in the seats, and not require the audience to think too much. This is not a bad thing. Its just a little too common for my tastes. Comedies, farces, musicals and the standards are served with regularity (and banality). But there is a breath of fresh air blowing through one of our local community theaters.

It is Kudzu Playhouse’s production of “Eleemosynary” written by Lee Blessing.

This is a wonderfully challenging piece of work. It is a thought provoking examination of the relationships between three strong women. The fact that they are related as grandmother, mother and daughter just adds another dimension to this exploration of how people choose to be who they are, yet can’t escape the family they are born into. I know it may sound like one of those melodramatic “Lifetime Channel” programs, but it is far, far better than that.

The material is extremely well written with deeply drawn, detailed characters: easy to accept on the surface, yet wonderfully textured below. This is not “heavy” dark drama by any means, but does cover some pretty serious ground, while also providing some wickedly clever touches of humor. A woman’s place in the world (as seen through three generations), combined with the effects of a dysfunctional mother’s love, provide a rich palette of emotional colors for the actors to draw from.

The three characters are distinct and full bodied.

Echo, the youngest, who will become “the perfect child”, obsesses over “spelling” as her mechanism to bring her closer to her absentee mother.

Artie, Echo’s mother, knows that life will be better just as soon as she gets far enough away from her own mother.

Dorothea, the “force of nature” matriarch, has actively chosen eccentricity as her coping mechanism after being forced to sublimate her talents and minimize herself by the societal pressures inflicted on women in her day.

Even though the original cast was very strong, I believe Adriana Warner has enhanced the production even more with her choice of Rachel Moldovan to play Echo. As is usual for an Adriana Warner directed show, the cast strong, talented, and very well balanced. The three women in the story are strong women and they are ably played by strong actors.

The staging choice of using a series of wooden boxes with letters painted on them like a child’s spelling blocks and rearranging them to show “place” is splendidly minimal and effective. It supports the “spelling” motif but doesn’t overshadow or interfere. Use of the wooden boxes was subtle and provided just the outline of the scenes allowing the audience to use their imagination to fill in the details. That’s my favorite kind of set.

Mary Sittler as Dorothea, the “eccentric” matriarch, finds a perfect balance in her portrayal. The temptation would be to make her character comically “kooky” or outright “crazy”. Mary’s energy onstage is more subdued and she allows the audience to discover her character in pastels instead of presenting Dorothea to us garish primary colors. Her movements, expressions and inflection tell the tale between the lines, long before her dialogue does. Mary was awarded with the Best Actress award at the 2006 Georgia Theater Conference last fall for her performance in this role! Well deserved too, I might add!

Margarita Moldovan expresses the self-inflicted isolation of Artie with body language that instantly communicates her loneliness, awkwardness at being a mother and fear of intimacy. In addition to that, she skillfully presents her character’s inner conflict of being an intelligent woman who often does less-than-intelligent things. She gains the audience’s sympathy, even though her character can be cold, emotionally distant and borderline cruel. That’s a very tough thing to accomplish, and she does it very well. Margarita was excellent when I saw the original production, but has really grown in the role since then and is a total delight to watch onstage (you want to just reach out and shake her for being so unfeeling to her own daughter and mother). Note: I am not an advocate of violence toward women, but her character could use a little (in italics here) guidance.

The addition of Margarita’s "real-life" daughter, Rachel Moldovan, as Echo adds another interesting texture to the performance. Rachel brings a wonderful energy and vibrancy to her portrayal of Echo. There is less emphasis on her character’s extreme intelligence and more on her deep need to be loved and to please. Her youthful vitality, bright eyes and “puppy dog” playfulness really wins the audience over. It breaks our heart to see how she tries so hard to be worthy of her mother’s love, but can only earn her respect.

This show contains exceptional writing, stylish and thoughtful production values and strong acting. In other words: “good theatre”! If you are overdue for a rewarding evening at the theatre, go see this show. You won’t regret it.
-Rial


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