The founders of Thanks Mom! Productions (Michael Ahearn, Michaela Szidloski, and Jo T. Williams) were all raised by loving, strong, single mothers and dedicated their first production to these women. Their understanding of how a strong woman can hold even the most troubled family together is evidenced in their choice of a play that the author dedicated to his own mother and which provided fabulous acting opportunities for the company's talented actresses.
Set in rural Louisiana during World War II, Robinson's play follows the lives of six women thrown together by the war. Three young wives are living with their husbands' mother in her home, waiting for the men to return. The family's situation is chronicled in the local press by reporter Addie May (Ellen Day) and is picked up by Life magazine, whose reporter (Colleen DeSalvo) is struggling to compete for good assignments in a male-dominated world. She is frustrated at being given yet another "women's story," but trudges out to give it her best shot.
She finds the three young wives, Tood (Jo T. Williams), Sybil (Michaela Szidloski), and Weetsie (Katharine Wells), and their mother-in-law Ola (Yvonne Cole) surprisingly interesting. Romantic, yet smart and practical Tood, who is pregnant, dreams of escaping the small town when the war ends. Earthy, hedonistic Sybil longs for the sexual pleasures she enjoyed with her husband. Rigid, religious Weetsie is the only one who sees the hard reality of what her life will be when her womanizing husband returns. Ola is awaiting the death of her own unfaithful husband, whose unsavory exploits foreshadow the future his daughters-in-law can look forward to.
Colleen DeSalvo gave a fine performance as Kate, the hard-boiled reporter whose encounters with the women make her question her own values and lifestyle. Ellen Day was very funny as her country counterpart, the busybody reporter Addie May. Yvonne Cole was a powerful presence as the family matriach Ola.
Jo T. Williams gave a remarkably sympathetic debut performance as the idealistic Tood. Michaela Szidloski was magnificent as the passionate, tragic Sybil, who shoots herself when her husband leaves her for another woman. Katharine Wells was wonderful as the unsympathetic Weetsie, succeeding in making her quite endearing. Only James Kennedy as Tood's husband Tommy fell short, and was out of his element in his few scenes with the talented Williams.
Robinson's play is derivative of many of his southern colleagues', from Preston Jones to Beth Henley. But although we have seen most of these characters before, in the hands of this skilled cast they came alive with new energy. First-time director Michael Ahearn is to be congratulated for his fine work.
Robert Lavagno and Michael Ahearn's minimal set worked
fine, and Sue Revere's costumes were appropriate for the
characters but not the period. Renaissance man Ahearn's sound
design included popular songs of the period that effectively set
the tone for the scenes.
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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern