A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
The 5 & Dime Theatre Company welcomed the theatre community to its new home and first permanent stage location with a dynamic production of Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother. The play opened on February 17 and will run through March 5, 2017 in Downtown Jacksonville at 112 E. Adams Street.
The 5 & Dime is noted for its incendiary programming, beginning in 2011 with Fahrenheit 451 and continuing with cutting edge plays, many of which explore social issues. The company’s choice for launching their new season and production space is fitting; Kentucky playwright Marsha Norman received a Pulitzer Prize (1983) for drama for ‘night, Mother. The story also found its way to the big screen in a 1986 film starring Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft.
As an audience, we discover soon after the opening that suicide and family issues are the subject as Jessie searches for a gun that belonged to her father, while her widowed mother Thelma is preoccupied with domestic routines. When Thelma asks Jessie about her interest in the gun, she calmly explains she intends to end her life before going to bed. Tonight. And why not? She isn’t enjoying life and doesn’t have any reason to think things will get better. She has had a troubled past and faces an uncertain future; has medical problems, can’t hold a job, and has no friends other than her mother. So why prolong things?
The drama was brilliantly directed by Bradley Akers. Of particular note, he kept the characters in motion throughout with excellent blocking, avoiding static seated conversations. When you see this play, you will agree it is one of the finest two-handers ever brought to the stage.
We learn a great deal about the characters, portrayed by two fine actresses, and the role of others in their lives during the ninety minutes of this intensely emotional play.
Actress Lindsay Curry as Jessie is strong and disturbingly convincing. We first saw her on stage as an actress in musicals at Orange Park Community Theatre. Ms. Curry expanded her theatre endeavors with The 5 & Dime, appearing previously in Clybourne Park, and co-directing Constellations at the Cummer Museum with Joshua McTiernan. Additionally, she received a Pelican Award for her costume designs for the 2016 hit musical Memphis.
Brooks Ann Meierdierks is stunning as the devastated Thelma. She is considered one of the finest actresses on our local stages, a magnetic performer who captures your attention whether portraying comic or tragic characters. Her stage credits on community and professional stages could fill this page.
The play takes place in the home that the two women share. The set, designed by Production Manager Lee Hamby and Technical Director Tom Fallon contains a picture-perfect kitchen and living room packed with true-to-life touches.
Don’t miss this remarkable play by Marsha Norma, who is not a stranger to Jacksonville audiences. She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical The Secret Garden and received a Tony Nomination for Best Book of a Musical for The Color Purple. Getting Out, her first play (initially staged in 1978) explores the imprisonment and post-incarceration struggles of women. The Five & Dime might consider the drama for a future production, as the topic is of current interest.
Additional Production Team members included Lori Drake (Stage Manager), Tom Fallon (Technical Director), Nicole Anderson (Lighting Design), and Maggie O’Connor, Pat Gorman, and Lee Hamby (Props).
We urge you to see The 5 & Dime’s new space. It is close to the Florida Theatre and the former Haydon Burns Library (now the Jessie Ball duPont Center). Street parking is free on Saturday and Sunday and after 6:00 pm on weekdays; additionally several paid parking lots are nearby, and the area has several restaurants a short walk from the theatre.
The 5 & Dime has announced its season through December, 2017 and has scheduled plays with intriguing titles, which include A New Brain (begins April 21), Top Dog, Underdog, The Call, and Evil Dead. Additionally, the company is presenting a Readers Theatre Series which launches March 10 with The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder. See their website (www.the5anddime.org) and Facebook page for additional information.