On Broadway, where it was much praised, Lisa Kron's autobiographical play about her resentment of her mother could count on respect from the arbiters of its self-infatuated and emotionally confused culture.
In Eve Leigh's production, this conflict of feisty-but-frustrated Lisa and irritating-but-adorable Ann is, despite its nods to Pirandello, revealed as a second-rate sit-com. Lisa tries to convey her grievances, helped by four bit players but hindered by Ann, who interrupts, addresses the audience, and finally so wins over the supporting cast that they abandon the play, declaring that Lisa is unfair to her mother. Well ends with Lisa's brief, awkward tribute to Ann, now offstage, which may leave some of the audience wondering, What, no hug?
Ostensibly, Kron asks why some people remain ill all their lives while others get well – her mother, constantly suffering from various allergies and mystery diseases, is in the first category, Kron in the second. But the real question is never voiced.
Despite poor health, Ann Kron somehow managed to spearhead the integration of the family's Midwestern neighbourhood in the Sixties; for all Lisa's admiration, we hear the silent challenge: why couldn't you overcome your illness enough to be a good mother? Why do these black people mean more to you than I do?
Important facts are conveyed in a word or phrase and never pursued. Lisa, we learn at the end of the play, is a lesbian. Did that have nothing to do with the maternal relationship? Lisa's father was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Might Ann be competing with him in the victim stakes?
The play's steady whining for sympathy is turned into aggressive demand by the strident vulgarity of Natalie Casey's Lisa and the perky graciousness of Sarah Miles, who, with a bizarre Southern accent, seems a radicalised version of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.
But the casting of the latter does provide an amusingly subversive touch to the evening: when Miles makes one of her many thwarted offers of drinks to the audience, one longs to see exactly what this devotee of one of Gandhi's more peculiar practices has in her fridge.
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