Writtten by Laura Wade
Directed by Tori Truss
Cast: JUDY: Hannah Mickunas; JOHNNY: Joel Shura; FRAN: Janice Culliford; SYLVIA: Lorry Lepaule; ALEX: Bryn Martin; MARCUS: Raven Deerwater
Running thru April 2, 2023
About half my designs are controlled fantasy, 15 percent are total madness and the rest are bread-and-butter designs.— Manolo Blahnik
The show must go on!
In the midst of an atmospheric river that sent rain and wind gusting over the edge of the coastal shores, Mendocino Theatre Company offered the opening night gala for its 2023 Season The weather was not the only set-back;
Covid took one of the lead actors out of the mix, causing the Preview performances to be cancelled. Despite the setbacks, a house full of devoted MTC family, friends and visitors came out to create a warm and supportive atmosphere.
Beth Craven, the new MTC director, had her hands full figuring out how to proceed. A new and experienced actor was quickly found. All credit to the skills of Keith Baker from points south. Keith rigorously rehearsed with the cast for those two preview days, offering a powerhouse performance.
Director, Tori Truss, had to handle last minute changes as well, bringing the understudy up to the subtleties of cast performance. Kudos to you, Tori, and the cast for the hard work and a positive theatrical experience provided.So glad to hear that Joel Shura, originally cast as Johnny, is back on the boards.
The play, with the charming and satiric title of HOME, I’M DARLING, written by award-winning playwrite, Laura Wade, is based on the British tradwife movement which encourages women to choose roles of domesticity and submissiveness to their husbands. The first act is cloaked in the mystery of tradwifery.
My practice as a reviewer is to go in with a clean slate, to see the play on itw own merits. I knew nothing about the tradwife movement. However, having turned teen in 1950, I grew up in that decade. I was intrigued with a play that harkened back to those times.
During the first act, I found myself comparing character attitudes, settings and costumes to my personal experience; I suspect other audience members did, and will, as well. Circle skirts were a fond memory, along with other entertaining reminders of those times. However — lest we forget — the deleterious post war effect on nuclear families prevented many from living in the powder puff prettiness for which the fifties is otherwise known.
Delusion and Fantasy
This play is focused on the choice of a couple, Judy and Johnny, to live in the fifties modality, or some version of it. As an audience member, I was uninformed in tradwife tradition. By the end of the first act, though the couple seemed rational enough, I truly began to wonder if Judy was delusional.
Judy, the housewife, is played with a sweet and sincere veracity by Hannah Mickunas, an amazing first time actor. Interestingly, she looks quite a bit like the author’s photo in the program.
Johnny, the husband, played by the understudy, gives a certain grace to the masculine side of the family quotient. He is appreciative and considerate of his wife; and overall, somewhat less certain of the 50’s fantasy.
They have invested in redecorating their home 50’s style, right down to the old refrigerator which is just a few years younger than Judy’s 48 years. Her age is of note as it is mentioned several times; the fridge as well! Judy and Johnny do not have children though both expressed wanting them, at some point. A dream put off til too late subtly enters the mix of the choices made.
Judy’s reality which is firmly entrenched in her housewifely commitment to having perfect dinners ready and giving devoted attention to her husband, is challenged by her comedic hippified friend, Fran, played by Janice Culliford who gives the audience a good share of laughter.
On another side of the male equation, Fran’s partner, Marcus, played by Raven Deerwater, enjoys Judy’s light-hearted fun. Perhaps more than he should! Marcus might be seen as the dark side of this extended tradwife family.
Alex, played by Bryn Martin, is the Boss lady, bringing every bit of a confident, powerful and scintillating sauciness to her role. One hot monologue.
Moms and Second Acts
Sylvia, Judy’s mother, is played in down-to-earth reality by Lorry Lepaule. Lorry seems made for the part. Lorry as Sylvia offers a critical monologue in Act 2 saying all the things that need to be said, all the things you probably would be thinking. It is the denouement. That monologue brought a round of applause. Impressive work.
Thank goodness for Act 2’s flashback scene in which we find out the whys and wherefores of Judy and Johnny’s tradwife decision. We also discover the closeted underpinnings of neo-liberal capitalism and entrepreneurial enterprise. This includes a financial crisis in which Judy poses an idea to Marcus about working as his assistant. The scene shows Judy working within her creative imperative. No longer is delusion a factor. Fantasy, perhaps; but Judy has a certain perfection in her negotiations. Not only sweet and sincere but savvy. Judy is the commander of her wheelhouse. The unraveling of tradwifery perfection proceeds from this point.
In researching the tradwife movement, it us clear that a tradwife basically refers to a woman who believes in patriarchal sex roles and a patriarchal marriage Further explorations show that the ideology shares connections with right-wing extremism and the Handmaid’s Tale – beware the patriarchy!
Political and social reality is a choice, an important one. This play is indirectly embedded with current-day issues. Controversial. Provocative. And disturbing in a dark-but-for-the-bright-light-it-casts on the choice we each have to make.
This comedic genre play, based on the tradwife movement, informs; but, rest assured, goes beyond the practice of tradwifery into ideas of choice, feminism, selective identity, and relationship. It also offers some greatly-needed laughter to lift us out of this dark winter. The shadow-dancing during set changes helped bring levity into the evening’s tale.
What will you choose? An apron and apple pie ala mode? A briefcase, take-out lunch, and out-the-door? Or?
Give yourself a time out. Live theatre has its doors open. Mendocino Theatre Company’s cast, crew and house will give you a worthwhile evening of performance and the company of our beloved and beautiful Mendocino Coastal community.
Home. I’m Darling shows through April 2
Thursday through Saturday evening and a Sunday matinee
For Tix, call (707) 937-4477 or online: www.mendocinotheatre.org
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