Actresses’ Bond Empowers Memory of Water
Paul Brissett, Duluth News Tribune
November 16, 2013
With The Memory of Water, the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s theater has staged one of its finest — if not the finest — productions in many seasons.
Cathy A. Fank directed this production of Shelagh Stephenson’s story of three sisters gathering for their mother’s funeral that is putatively about the subjectivity of memory, but is really more about relationships.
The play has been compared to Crimes of the Heart, but Stephenson’s script is much better than Beth Henley’s. It’s funnier and more poignant, and its characters easier to relate to.
It’s possible the characters seem so real in this production because the cast is so strong. All six actors bring an uncommonly high level of confidence and conviction to their roles, even with the occasional tone-deaf delivery of a line here and there.
The finest jobs are done by Gabrielle Ford, as the eldest, now a physician, Mary; Ashley Kelleher as the anal-retentive nutritional supplements retailer, Teresa; and Hannah Fiedler as the flighty, shopaholic youngest, Catherine.
In Act I, the trio handles the rapid-fire dialogue with assurance, bickering and talking past each other as Teresa insists on selecting a floral arrangement while Catherine pesters her sisters about borrowing a skirt. They quibble over past events, such as which of them was left at the beach.
As they sort their mother’s clothing and begin trying it on while Catherine passes a roach around, the ties that bind begin to re-emerge, until Catherine’s comment to Mary — “You look dead, like Mom” — has them collapse in a heap on the bed, giggling uncontrollably.
Act II draws out the causes of each woman’s resentment, bitterness or insecurity, again played with exceptional credibility by the three actresses. Whereas Act I has the poignancy slipped into the humor, in Act II, the ratio is reversed.
The real core of the production is the distinct bond among the three actresses, ironically portraying characters who desperately want to find, but cannot, that same connection.
Sue Wedan’s set is perfect: a slightly dated, distinctly feminine bedroom of a house in Maine in 1997. To this she has added old photographs pasted to the set’s floor and also the stage skirting, reminiscent of a funeral photo collage.
Ben Birdseye’s sound design — heavy on the Nat King Cole — is judicious and evocative.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s production of The Memory Of Water which was directed by Cathy A. Frank premiered on November 15th at the UWS Theater. The story about three sisters that are brought together by the recent death of their mother in which they are forced to spend some time together all the while sharing similar memories in which they all view differently.
The set of the play was one that did not change throughout the play but still was an important part of the play. One interesting thing about the set is that it is the bedroom of their late mother. The set featured a rendition of an old widow’s bedroom with her old wardrobe still hung with late 80’s dresses and old metalwork frame around the bed. The entire play the three sisters bicker to one another when conversing about their mother, all while sitting in her room. Also the floor of the set consisted of childhood photos that were associated with the actors in the play. This was a cool element in a way that it gave the audience a sense that the actors on stage truly did grow up together and were sisters.
The actors in the play I believe performed greatly. All three characters differed a lot in personalities but still seemed to relate well together and seem like a dysfunctional family. One character that stood-out well to me was the youngest sister Catherine played by Hannah Fiedler. Her character was one of that drama-queen, spoiled, younger sister everyone knows. The ups and downs of the emotions of her character was pulled off flawlessly by Hannah and her character was quite funny.
One thing that surprised me most of the production was the overall laughs that were generated by the audience. The script featured many punchlines and the characters often teamed-up and poked fun at the remaining sister. The strong cast allowed for this play to be also funny but at the same time deliver a strong message about the relationship with family and memories.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on November 19, 2013 10:52 AM.
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