Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Relatively Maternal

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to be in NYC and saw the Broadway production of Relatively Speaking. The show is a collection of one-act plays written by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen with Direction by John Turturro. Actors include Marlo Thomas, Julie Kavner and Steve Guttenberg ... wow.

Naturally I walked into the theater with expectation of being royally regaled. I was not disappointed. However I was completely taken off guard by the force of emotion that railed through me during the second performance. The PR blurb states "In George is Dead, Elaine May explores the hilarity of death" and that is what I expected. 

But that's not what I got.

Marlo Thomas (a hero of mine from days of That Girl and Free to be You and Me) doesn't disappoint as the incredibly spoiled socialite and suddenly widowed Doreen. But the real star is Lisa Emery who plays Carla Kerns, a frazzled woman desperately trying to make everyone happy - all to her own detriment. 

The story is doled out slowly, delicately, and then, shocking in its revelation of how these characters are related. It is not at all about the "hilarity of death" and I wonder how or why Elaine May allowed those words to describe her work.

In fact, George Is Dead isn't about death at all. It IS about a middle aged woman's desperate, and ultimately fruitless, quest for maternal approval. Her crusade is so encompassing that it destroys her marriage, career and self confidence. The failures are hers.

I sobbed after that play. Couldn't catch my breath. People stared. I didn't care. 
What does that say about me?