This is a memory play….it will take us to back to a time and place we need to visit in our minds in order to remind us who we are … where we came from … where we are going.
I realize that Jessica has already awarded two tickets to “I Remember Mama” but I urge you all not to miss this exquisite play, it is running until April 20th. I managed to see it some 3 weeks ago, and I still cannot get it out of my head, it so moved me. It’s an emotional journey – perhaps even a spiritual one – and well worth taking.
This deceptively simple drama is related through a series of absorbing vignettes. Using the voice of a now mature Katrin (she is the narrator, these slices of life are her personal history and relayed from her point of view) she shares with the audience the experiences of her loving family’s daily life during her formative teenage years. She remembers Dagmar, Nils, Papa, Uncle Kris, Aunt Trina….but most of all, she remembers Mama.
These reminiscences are not remarkable, they are not earth shattering, they do not alter the planet…and that is precisely the point. It’s the small moments that define us, teach us, form our character and ultimately tell us who we are.
The scenes revolve around an immigrant, extended family from Norway now living in San Francisco in the early 1910s. It is a uniquely American story – remember we are a nation of immigrants with the greatest wave of future citizens arriving in the 1900s – yet it is universal in theme. This is EVERONE’S story – it could very well be a Greek family seeking safe refuge in New York City, a German set of relations following previous relatives to the toils of the Kansas heartland, or a young Swedish couple settling into the oil promises once inherent in Houston. Their hardships and trials were apparent (few traveled to this country with any money) but these families worked long, hard days while silently managing to keep a roof over their head, their families fed and a sense of dignity in their daily life. Their hopes were never for themselves, but for the next generation to succeed. They honored cultural traditions from “the old country” while slowly assimilating into new American homes…and charmingly never quite managed to lose their accents.
As the slogan reads, “I Remember Mama” presents 10 women, 25 roles, 1 family….an American classic reborn.”
And it needs to be retold, remembered, and honored. The wonderful Barbara Barrie and magnificent Barbara Andres play the principal parts of Mama and Katrin – both are stupendous, but the entire cast is beyond all superlative adjectives…such a remarkable pantheon of actresses whom I have long revered and respected. There is a level of maturity here in their performances, a depth you rarely find on stage these days – coupled with thoughtful, incisive direction by Jack Cummings.
The production itself is singular – presented in an actual gym with several lengthy rows of bleacher seating setting the parameters of the set – no reserved seats – surrounding an enormous gym floor with approximately 10 dining room table and chairs sets forming the actual production set – all unique and different from the other. Each table contains and evokes memories thru various items – aged typewriters, old china dinner sets, a collection of teapots, a table chock full of old black and white photos – all reminders of days gone by. Such nostalgia – perhaps bittersweet? I swear there was a set of chairs on this gym floor from my Mother’s dining room table that she had for some 40 years … and most likely inherited from HER Mother. The spotlight follows Katrin, and subsequently highlights the various scenes which occur at these diverse dining room tables. Daily life always seems to center around a table – be it the casualness of the kitchen or the formality of the dining room. Another circle of life.
Remember where you came from. If you don’t know, ASK.
Before there is no one LEFT to ask.
Roots… unique to each and every individual.
We all have a story. And we all have far more in common then we realize.
Try and see this show, take this trip back in time.
Bring tissues; you may very well need them.
WHERE: The Gym At Judson Street 243 Thompson Street New York, New York
By: Joanne Theodorou