The world premiere of The Fantastical Nature of Motherhood, a polemical and problematic play for mature audiences written, directed, and produced by Distillery Theatre Company founder and artistic director Sylvia M. Mallory, isn’t so fantastic. It is a virtually incoherent mash-up of the Roman foundation myth of Romulus and Remus and the Christian nativity story, liberally laced with four-letter words and an excoriation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sheryl Scott) as a promiscuous teenager carrying on simultaneous affairs with her none-too-bright classmate Joey and her teacher Mr. F (both played by Chris Muntel), cursing God, and wishing out loud that she could abort the baby Jesus. Have mercy! Where is Dr. William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, when we really need him?
If The Fantastical Nature of Motherhood is supposed to be some sort of extreme feminist statement, such as pregnancy is punishment, its point eludes me. Sheryl Scott’s iconoclastic portrait of the BVM would have put Dr. Donohue in a swivet. But Scott’s portrayal Mary, like all the other characters in this play, is so two-dimensional that there is no “character” for the actress in inhabit. Chris Muntel likewise paints Joey, Mr. F, and Pop in primary colors. Mary Beth Hoots slinks around the stage on all fours as Wolf Mother, and then finds her feet to play Ma and a Woman who undergoes a graphic miscarriage.
Randi Martin-Lee adds a couple of gritty cameos as Donna, who the playwright characterizes as the Goddess of Stepford Wives (whatever that means), and a Homeless Woman suffering from ovarian cancer. Damien Lee plays a Homeless Man selling newspapers on the street corner and another Man whose role I have already forgotten. Thank God for forgetfulness.
With apologies to T.S. Eliot, The Fantastical Nature of Motherhood ends not with a bang, but a whimper — with the playing … over and over … of Alison Krauss’ haunting rendition of the traditional Appalachian spiritual “Down to the River to Pray” — from the bodacious bluegrass soundtrack of the Coen brothers’ comic movie masterpiece O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000). So, there are no curtain calls.
After the Sunday matinee last weekend, the audience was invited to linger in the storefront theater’s lobby and participate in a piece of performance art by expressing their feelings about the play on a giant canvas. I left quickly, before the fur began to fly.
SECOND OPINION: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the March 9th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/03/sylvia-mallorys-the-fantastical-nature-of-motherhood-premieres-on-march-10th/.)
The Distillery Theatre Company presents THE FANTASTICAL NATURE OF MOTHERHOOD, a world premiere by Sylvia M Mallory, at 8 p.m. March 18 and 19 and 2 p.m. March 20 in the Free Association Theatre Ensemble’s performance space at 267 Grande Heights Dr., located in the Harrison Pointe Shopping Center, in Cary, North Carolina 27513.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and seniors), except $5 Education Rush Tickets (sold 5 minutes before performance to students and teachers with ID).
BOX OFFICE: 919/729-3903, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://www.vendini.com/.
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.