New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through August 6, 2016
by Konrad Rogowski
“Jar The Floor,” New Century Theatre’s latest production, takes on the universal themes of family values, shifting social and cultural morals, and the hopes and regrets of mothers and their daughters as they strive to resolve their sometimes rocky pasts, and to understand the shifting values that drive their divergent futures.
Author Cheryl West examines the ongoing struggles of five women whose lives span four generations, and each of whose relationships carry the burden of past and present family expectations, and their disillusionment with life’s unfulfilled and unshared promises. For Madear (Johnnie Mea) it is life at 90, with a failing memory of what life was. For her daughter Maydee (Shannon Lamb) it is a life to be lived to the fullest and fastest. For daughter Lola (Maggie Miller), it is living a life of professional propriety, and upward mobility. For daughter, Vennie (Toni Ann DeNoble) it is to be a free spirit and follow her dream wherever it leads. And as a non-family member, Raisa (Brianna Sloane) lives through a broken marriage, cancer, and what may come next for her.
At first, it seems that all these characters can do is to complain and to snipe at one another, firing off accusations of who failed whom, and why there is no understanding of why life’s promises fell short. But as the action progresses, there are unexpected alliances formed, and old secrets, hurts, and hopes are revealed. There is then the start of an understanding among these women that family and love can survive in sharing lives that we may not fully understand or agree with, but which are the lives of those for whom we care.