Posted on 10/25/2018 12:05am by Jennifer Madigan
Theater review: Anyone with parents will relate to ‘Things My Mother Taught Me’
by Steve Feeney
Portland Press Herald | October 22, 2018
Mothers almost always mean well when they offer advice to their children. But whether and how that advice is taken can create some friction. It has also provided the basis for any number of stage, screen and TV comedies.
Katherine DiSavino’s 2012 play “Things My Mother Taught Me,” the season opener for The Public Theatre of Lewiston, follows a familiar theatrical trail as it tells the story of a young couple whose move to their first apartment together becomes complicated. First, they can’t get a new chair through the apartment door and, soon after, they can’t get their meddlesome parents out of their faces. The parents just want to help, of course.
The head and the heart do battle in this modest but good-natured romantic comedy about thresholds that parents and children must find ways to cross. Though references are made to contemporary culture (Beyoncé and Priceline, for example), the story is essentially timeless. A spirited cast, under the direction of Janet Mitchko, delivers some laughs in bringing the familiar characters and situations to life once again within the not-yet-fully-furnished apartment set.
Caroline Portu and Kelsey J. Nash play the young couple, given to a playful dramatization of their relationship. Though in their late 20s, both seem still to be somewhere in that transitional stage between playing grown-up and being grown-up.
Then, the parents, played by Bill Van Horn, MarTina Vidmar, Donnah Welby and Mark S. Cartier, arrive. Efforts at cleaning and physically moving-in gradually become laced with concerns, especially for the mothers, about whether the young ones are doing the right thing.
Vidmar gets at the nervous energy behind her character’s firm understanding of the way things should be and concern that sharing an apartment may not be enough of a real commitment. Welby portrays a quieter force who brings some personal scars to the conversation and believes things may be getting too serious, too soon, for the young couple.
The dads, ever the loveable and laughable clowns, try mostly to stay out of the crossfire as things get a little tense. Van Horn and Cartier get some of the play’s funniest lines, as does Glenn Anderson, as a building superintendent who offers old world wisdom as well as more practical assistance.
Traditional values are rescued, if they were ever really in danger, by some tongue-loosening alcohol and the emergence of an engagement ring in this brief visit with some likeable folks who are just trying to move on.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.