Saturday, March 25, 2023
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The Mother of Invention - a confounding Off B'way production

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for

What’s it all about Alfie? A question we should be asking James Lecesne the award winning author of this 95 minute no intermission rambling drama/comedy loosely directed by Tony Speciale that has just arrived at the newly re-carpeted and freshly painted June Havoc Theatre. New seats too.

What’s not so new is the play itself. Watching this production, where the acting ranges from barely audible to mediocre to excellent we are reminded of past plays and actors in situations that have been better fleshed out.

What’s more confounding? That Mr. Lecesne has won multiple awards or that his new play doesn’t support his reputation?

There is an echo of OTHER DESERT CITIES (a family memoir) , THE FATHER (dementia and a slowly disappearing set) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (an urn of ashes) Chekhov (a gun) and a slightly heightened realism bordering on the absurd (ALBEE) If you are put off by nudity stay home. If you are put off by writing that doesn’t sparkle stay home as well.

Dottie (Concetta Tomei) channeling Ruth Gordon supposedly is suffering from dementia. Her adult children – David (James Davis – a gay writer from California) and his sister Leanne Reed who has a bright and pretty but barely audible daughter Ryder (Isabella Russo) have come to pack her up and off. Dad has died and mom’s brain is dying somewhere in Central Florida and they must move on.

Next door neighbor Jane (Dale Soules) helps out and portrays a homeless lady later on. She perks things up quite a bit.

But the perkiest moments are delivered by Frankie Rey (Dan Domingues) – keep an eye out for this one. Excellent actor. Great body. Especially in the all-together.

Mom thought so too as she has written him about 10,000 dollars-worth of checks for services rendered. His Spanish grave robber character is heavily accented with muscles to match. But mind you – he is also a fine actor with a sly sense of humor. Is he a con man as he has seduced mom and daughter and then attempts to do the same to David? Or what?

Throughout the play Mom speaks to us remembering without the least bit of difficulty. It’s unclear if she is losing it or if her kids just want to cart her off to a home and sell the one she has willed to the much younger Senor Rey.

The set by Jo Winiarski is just as confounding. Cardboard cartons are stacked high representing the walls. They slowly are taken off as they pack up mom and her memories. Lamps abound doing little to enlighten the play. The sibs squabble. Unearthing family secrets. The little girl does her best to be seen but not heard. And Mr. Domingues conquers all.

Through February 26

Photo: Maria Baranova

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