Preview: ‘’Night, Mother’ at Errant Phoenix Productions

‘Night, Mother: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm; Through 11/23; $16-$18; Thistle Dew Theatre, 1901 P St.;
Rated 5.0

’Night, Mother is the type of play that could easily scare off an audience. An intense—sometimes all-too-real—family drama about depression, loneliness and the ideation of suicide, it can be crushing.

Jessie (Sophie Blackburn) is a divorced mother of an adolescent “hoodlum” son who has moved in with and takes care of her widowed mother, Thelma (Shirley Sayers). Their life is orderly and apparently financially comfortable enough that there are no money worries. Thelma is happy with the way things are. She takes life however it comes—until the Saturday night that Jessie announces her intention to kill herself.

Emotions rise and fall, conflicts ensue and the play, in 90 minutes of real time comes to its inevitable ending. “I say no to hope,” Jessie says conclusively to her mother’s argument for living.

Playwright Marsha Norman brings sympathy, but never pity, to her two characters and she understands that more than just depression or unhappiness contributes to someone deciding to kill themselves. “The man in the White House,”(it was Ronald Reagan then), “The news in the papers and on television”—it can add to an atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty.

Director Steve Buri gives Jessie and Thelma the same respect as Norman does. He moves the actors skillfully around the small, tidy set and elicits two powerful performances in service to the script that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.