Volume 79, Number 7 | July 22 - 28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Photo by Nat Chitwood

The capable cast of ‘Mother’

Family gathers, bickers with help of ‘Mother’ alcohol 

Talented cast can’t quite elevate ‘ambitious but flat’ play

BY SCOTT HARRAH

Buck Henry and Holland Taylor breathe badly needed life into Lisa Ebersole’s ambitious but flat one-act comedy-drama “Mother.”  The story of the Leroy family gathering at West Virginia resort a few days before New Year’s sees the two veteran actors play Kitty and Joseph — who endlessly quarrel with each other and their two children, Kate (played by playwright Lisa Ebersole) and Jackie (Haskell King). 

Despite excellent performances from Henry and Taylor, it’s difficult for them and the rest of the cast to overcome the limitations of Ebersole’s pointless material and its familiar theme of family discord.  Although the script has a few potent lines, most of the attempts at humor are weak. 

“I have great legs. They’re the reason your father married me,” Kitty tells her son when he asks why she isn’t wearing pantyhose to the dinner table.  

“Well…use some moisturizer then,” Jackie responds. 

That’s about as funny as “Mother” gets. All the action transpires in a hotel dining room, but suspense builds when a mysterious note arrives (making the family think daughter Kate has been kidnapped). It’s a great plot twist, but too undeveloped — as is the storyline in general — to make much sense to audiences. 

Director Andrew Grosso makes the narrative flow at a natural pace, but it’s hard to like this dysfunctional family. Kate’s a spoiled 31-year-old, and brother Jackie is dating a married woman. Ebersole and Haskell’s performances are good, but their characters are too one-dimensional. Fortunately, the razor-sharp comic timing of Buck Henry and Holland Taylor make the story plausible because they flesh out their troubled characters with conviction and aplomb. 

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