THINGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME
by Katherine DiSavino
Directed by Carol M. Rice
Stage Manager – Darcy Koss
Set Design – Abby Kipp-Roberts
Lighting Design – Maxim Overton
Costume Design – Erica Rémi Lorca
Sound Design – Jason Rice
Properties Design – Kristin M. Burgess
Olivia – Shauna Holloway
Max – Martin Sinise
Gabe – Ben Scheer
Wyatt – Joe Porter
Lydia – Ivy Opdyke
Karen – Nancy Lamb
Carter – David Noel
Reviewed Performance: 1/20/2017
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Premiering at her parents’ dinner theatre in Lancaster, PA, Things My Mother Taught Me is one of three plays by Katherine DiSavino, a film and TV writer who you may recognize as the author of Nana’s Naughty Knickers.
Set in an empty apartment in Chicago, the play involves a young couple, Olivia and Gabe, who have moved halfway across the country together. Olivia has already managed to wedge a chair in the apartment doorway, and soon everything else that can go wrong, does. As things begin to spin out of control, we watch as Olivia and Gabe try to decide if this is really how they want to start their lives off together.
A light-hearted comedy, Things My Mother Taught Me is full of warm humor and tender moments, but it still contains some universal truths about family and love. Shauna Holloway plays effusive Olivia and shows a well-developed talent for physical humor. Holloway’s Olivia is already frustrated the moment we meet her on stage, and as her day grows worse, her gesticulations and flailing grow larger. Still, Holloway is never over-the-top with Olivia, tempering her character with a forthright delivery of lines and eyes that glow with earnest tenderness when directed at Gabe.
Ben Scheer’s Gabe is sweet and more sedate, calming Olivia with gentle teasing and support. Scheer’s performance is perhaps less theatrical than the other actors’ and his posturing is a bit more uncertain, which subtlety enhances his character’s intentions. His Gabe appears to be a perfect complement to Holloway’s Olivia, and the two are highly believable as a couple.
Olivia’s parents, Karen and Carter, are played by Nancy Lamb and David Noel, respectively. Noel is amusing as the avoidant Carter and is particularly memorable during a scene in which he and Gabe’s father return to the apartment drunk. Similarly, Lamb is convincing as the highly critical Karen who must come to terms with her daughter’s choices. A scene wherein the mother-daughter pair begin to understand one another in particularly poignant.
Ivy Opdyke and Joe Porter play Gabe’s parents, Lydia and Wyatt. Opdyke is delightful as the warm, yet overly concerned Lydia. Though the relationship between Lydia and Olivia is initially set up to be adversarial, Opdyke tempers Lydia’s overbearing nature with a kindness that convinces us that she truly cares not just for her son, but for Olivia as well. Porter is very funny as the down-home, southern Wyatt who knows when to step in to give advice and when to step back and let his wife work her magic. Opdyke and Porter have great chemistry together and function as a convincingly cohesive whole.
Rounding out the cast of characters is the apartment superintendent, Max, played with great charm by Martin Sinise. Sinise has excellent comedic timing and a strong stage presence that he modulates expertly to interject himself when necessary while simultaneously avoiding upstaging the other actors. Sinise’s Max may have a gruff exterior, but his rough edges conceal a heart of gold.
The set is, as expected, rather minimalist, as all of the action takes place in an empty apartment. The majority of the stage is dedicated to a large, open living room flanked on the left by doors to the two bedrooms and on the right by the door to the hallways, the bathroom door, and a small kitchen. The walls are a neutral shade of tan, and two large casement windows are center stage. This space generally works well for its intended purpose with only the kitchen serving up minor distractions when the refrigerator door seems to keep hitting something when it is opened and a seeming absence of a stove, though cooking on one is mentioned more than once.
Costumes emphasize the social status and age group of each character. Gabe wears a buffalo plaid shirt with jeans and sneakers, and Olivia wears an open button-down shirt over a tank top and jeans. Both are the type of casual garb that one would expect to be worn when moving boxes into an apartment, though the fact that his shirt is buttoned all the way up to his neck seems as though it might be a bit restrictive. Lydia and Wyatt are casual in jeans and T-shirts—hers floral, his sports-themed—and this appears to reflect their background and intent to help the couple move in. Karen and Carter, on the other hand, seem to reflect a more upscale, urban society with more formal dress, including dress slacks and nice shoes. Further, Karen’s silky floral shirt and smooth chignon, along with Carter’s bright pink polo shirt and sports jacket, suggest more polish.
Lighting and sound are unobtrusive and seamless, and music choices are appropriate throughout the play and even seem to reflect the themes of the play into intermission.
Overall, Things My Mother Taught Me is satisfying and provides much laughter while provoking deeper thought concerning the differences in generational views of relationships, the nature of love, and the different ways that love can look. Ultimately, it seems, the best moments, and indeed the best couples, may be those that are perfect in their imperfection.
THINGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580
Plano, TX 75023
Runs through February 4th.
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, with matinees Saturdays at 3:00 pm.
Ticket prices are $22.00 for Friday and Saturday nights, and $16.00 for Thursdays and matinees. Student, Senior, and Group discounts are available.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.roverdramawerks.com, or call the box office at 972-849-0358.