Directed by Karin Coonrod
Produced by Theatre Y
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago
Excellent performances fuel Romanian orphan drama
Melissa Hawkins and Andrew Livingston gave spirited and emotionally wrenching performances of Romanian playwright Andra Visky’s I Killed My Mother now playing at the Greenhouse Theatre through Match 14, 2010.
Set in Romania during the time of Dictator Nicolae Ceasescu, Bernadette, a Romanian teenage girl abandoned after birth by her mother, a Roma (Gypsy) woman, grows up in a series of Romanian orphanages. She forges a relationship with her soul-mate Clip who teaches her how to excise parasitic relationships, to “kill” or turn her back forever, even on the maternal bond, in order to realize her own extraordinary identity.
This is a fictional account based on a true story of a Romanian orphan that vividly depicts the harsh conditions in state run institutions for orphans.
Melissa Hawkins, as Bernadette and Andrew Livingston, as her muse Clip, left it all out on the stage depicting the tribulations and struggles of orphan life in a cold uncaring country. The stylized production is filled with theatrical conventions including folk songs, strange movements as well as obscure poetic monologues and intense screaming and pounding on the walls of the bare stage.
Maybe too much was lost in the play’s translation from Romanian to English (translation by Alisha O’Sullivan) as I found the work wordy and much too poetic to be coherent. While I was impressed with the weird movement and unique staging, Bernadette’s story was presented in a surreal, abstract, almost absurdest style. Scenes like Bernadette and her muse-the imaginary Clip, being punished by having metal clips place on their tongues for hours allowed the boy and girl to invent a new language-“clip”-a sort of pig Latin.
All the manic movements and long poetic speeches eventually wore me out despite the show only playing for 75 minutes. Bernadette’s story needs to be told in more detail with less theatricality. The lack of clarity and the constant movements quickly became a distraction. The truthful performances almost saved the show.
At the Greenhouse Theater located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through March 14 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are only $15-$20, which is a bargain for theater of this quality. For tickets call 773-404-7336 or visit www.greenhousetheater.org. To learn more about this young theater company, visit www.theatre-y.com.