May 12,1994

PowPAC's 'Night, Mother' delivers powerful punch in two-character drama

By Patricia A. Kumpan Community Editor

Theatre performances come wrapped in all kinds of packages.

Some packages are easier to open than others, while a few take time to untie. "Night, Mother," the current Poway Performing Art Company's two-woman play, falls into the latter category.

The focus quickly zooms in on the mother-daughter relationship between Mama and Jesse. It isn't so much what is on the outside that draws us in, listening to the idle chit chat between the two, but the struggle to penetrate the wall of words and get to the heart of the matter: Do you love me; did you ever?

This is their last chance to finally let words and feelings colide. Let. the pieces fall where they may. Let the relationship grow or suffer. Who cares, as long as the words finally get said?

The words do get said and the evening that appeared to be a chance for Mama and Jesse to spend together goes beyond the boundary, probing deeper than we .care to see.

Some of these words make us squirm. So why are we, the audience, affected by this exchange? The window that has been shut to Jesse and Mama's feelings for one another is now open and we can see inside. It's painful, because we see who they see, and through the acting of Dee Kelley as Mama and Karen Lust as Jesse, we feel the pain.

The mention of "Dad," who. died several years earlier, evokes not only memories but a bitter-sweet word-battle. As Mama 'recalls, "He would sit or farm, not much else." While Jesse drifts off wistfully with her version, "We'd sit and talk" Mama's only retort comes quizzically, "What were you always wispering about?" To this Jesse answers, "We were just talking, Mama."

In Jesse's remembrance we can feel the love she had for her father. Her loss touches us and at the same time tells us she will never be the same again; never a whole person.

Mama and Jesse have revealed how differently they each approach life and what it has offer.

Mama is the go-forward no-matter-what variety, and Jesse is the opposite with her I've-never-been- any-good-at-anything attitude.'

The conclusion revolves around the silent words that never form the question between mother and daughter, yet we suppose it, "Don't you know I love you?"

Internally we wonder if it would have made a difference to hear it and why isn't it shared now.

If theatre means actors breathing life into words, then PowPAC delivers two punches with "Night, Mother."

The first blow grazes our minds with subtle yet deep-seeded questions and the second numbs our hearts as we look inside a relationship that would have thrived on hearing an occasional "I love you."

It's not a comedy, nor for the faint of heart. Dialogue appears ho-hum in a few places but always thought provoking, thanks to the insight and sensitivity by veteran actresses Kelley and Lust, each pulling from within their ability to touch the audience.

They touch us, and because of them "Night, Mother" leaves its mark and reminds us that theatre is the expression of a playwright's words, but only an actor or actress can embody a performance with soul.

Jim Payton draws from his experience and perception as a community actor to make his directorial debut a successful one.

"Night, Mother" continues its run through May 22 at Poway Performing Arts Company, located at 13634 Cynthia Lane in Poway.

Exact dates and times of the production are available by calling 679-8085.