Almost Grown Up

Rated 4.0 When Aviva Jane Carlin offers to share teatime with you, you’re only too happy to oblige. Actually, it’s not Carlin, but rather her character Lizzie in Almost Grown Up that wants to include you in her teatime chats about her childhood, husband, children and, foremost, her mother. But it’s Carlin’s warmth, generosity and storytelling that make this Sacramento Theatre Company’s one-woman play so fun, endearing and heartfelt.Carlin, originally from South Africa and now a New Yorker, can also be considered a seasonal Sacramentan after her long, successful stints with STC in two one-woman shows—Shirley Valentine and the self-authored Jodie’s Body. Now Carlin returns to star in Almost Grown Up, another solo show she’s written, this time about Lizzie, a 46-year-old Cockney housewife still wrestling with mom issues.

Lizzie bemoans that fact that although she is a wife to a man she adores and a loving mother to two adult children, her mother can reduce her to a bumbling idiot with a few choice words. “When I hear her voice in my ear, I feel 5 years old,” she tells the audience.

The play begins with Lizzie finishing up a frustrating conversation with her mother, who she regretfully invites to lunch. All comfort and cozy, lounging about in her bathrobe and slippers, Lizzie turns and begins to address the audience with asides. Pretty soon, she’s pulled up a couch and letting you into all her secrets, fears, triumphs and failures, all the while sipping tea and straitening up for her mother’s visit.

Lizzie, with the help of Carlin’s wonderful script, tells us little stories that have big meanings; rather than using large brush strokes, she paints pictures using small anecdotes. Carlin is a born storyteller, making you laugh one minute and sigh with recognition the next.

At a mere 70 minutes, however, the play feels rather aborted, and even audience members began to murmur, “Is that all there is?” when Carlin walked offstage. It feels like a lost opportunity, but one that can be remedied by Carlin adding a few more stories that would help round out the premise of mother-daughter entanglements. But if the worst you can say about a play is that you want more, more, more, that’s not a bad thing at all.