Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
through August 9, 2015
by Mary Fernandez-Sierra
An intimate, superbly acted portrait of a modern mother and daughter awaits theatre goers at Chester Theatre’s "Memory House" by Kathleen Tolan. Like the tangled contents of a trunk full of memorabilia, this play reveals much about the character of the ones who filled the box.
It is a pleasure to watch Maggie (Debra Jo Rupp) and her daughter Katia (Caitlyn Griffin) as they dig into their family story to gather material for a college essay, and discover long-ignored wisps of the past.
Rupp’s comic and dramatic timing is incomparable. She is the fulcrum of the play, balancing humor and pathos with ease. Her portrayal of a mother struggling with the angst of an overwrought teenager is touching and true; no parent could see it unmoved.
Equally impressive is Griffin, whose Katia rushes furiously between childish tantrums and adult insights about her life. She brings a sweetness to the character, especially in her facial expressions, which make a sensitive, worthy heroine out of a very torn-up teen.
As always on this stage, stunning scenery matches the beauty of the performances. Designed by Geoffrey Ehrendreich, Maggie and Katia’s New York apartment has a believable lived-in look blended with the colors and lines of a fine painting. The opening scene of the play is almost magical due to some special visuals and music (kudos to Sound Designer Tom Shread for this as well.) Subtle lighting designed by James McNamara softens or glows almost imperceptibly to suit the mood of the scenes, and costumes by Sarah Nelson add so much to the characters.
Director Sheila Siragusa maintains a lovely balance in the energy, momentum and tension of this production. The variety of emotions, movement, vocal quality and even the silences onstage keep this show moving, and make the fate of one small family seem all-important.
Make the trip to Chester to see this one; "Memory House" is unforgettable!