We all feel ‘out of place’, ‘out of time’ at some stage in our lives but Martine Small lives and breathes it every day in her small hometown of Winlock, Washington.. This refreshing new play by Nora Douglass provides some small hometown truths amidst a lot of painful humor around mother-daughter relationships. Piper St. Julien plays the awkward, overly smart Martine with the unabashed self-confidence of an only child without a father figure, desperate to try her hand at running the yearly Winlock ‘Egg Day’ festival. ‘Come on girls, let’s leave the mighty one to her great thoughts!’ responds Emma, Martine’s grandmother, played by Ann Peck McBride with great warmth and compassion, to her devoted flock of clucking hens who have gathered in the kitchen.
This second in Theatre 33 summer readings is staged in the round which provides an opportunity for the audience to see Martine’s young angst from various positions. Is the issue that the men in the Small family – father and grandfather – have all died young? Is Martine’s dissatisfaction with small-town life just a variation of her mother’s?
Director Gabrielle Brewer-Wallin juxtaposes the physical characterizations reminiscent of melodrama of the chorus of townsfolk with the sincere realism of the intimate scenes between granddaughter and grandmother.at the kitchen table, (surrounded by chickens who ‘nan’ seems to need around her for comfort). These scenes bring the play to life in a warm and gentle way; each character finding her own way through her difficult memories of lost fathers and husbands. The play builds to a climax with the arrival of ‘Egg Day’, a series of uncomfortable performances organized by Martine about women’s suffrage and a poem about ‘never letting love go’. Here is where the audience might be forgiven for feeling somewhat confused as to the focus of Douglass’s play, is it about love or women’s voices? The strong focus on the grandmother, mother, daughter relationships might offer us an insight to the heart of the play. In 1909 women’s voices were not only regarded as ‘clucking hens’ in the background of men’s business, but often women turned on each other, competing for the attention of men and seeing each other as competitors in this mission. Women were not generally ‘listened’ to and often found their women friends were as big an obstacle in getting things done in public life as the men. Douglass has cleverly placed the fathers and husbands of this family in the after-life in order to hear the voices of the women more clearly. Hear them we do and we want more!
Upcoming Plays at Theatre 33
Amanda Transcending by Connie Bennett, August 9-12
A Christmas Carol, a 1940’s Radio Show, adapted by Thomas Nabhan from the short story by Charles Dickens, December 20-23
Location: M. Lee Pelton Theatre Building, Willamette University (off 12th Street).
Price: Tickets are $10 as suggested donation.
Box Office: 971-599-1029
Play by Nora Douglass @ Theatre33
Photo: Piper St. Julien as Martine.