Though I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
– Paul Simon, Mother and Child Reunion
A telltale indicator of the strength of family ties lies in the frequency with which family members have a desire and make an effort to see each other in-person. After several years of a long-distance relationship, a family tragedy brings together Mother Fay Rorsch, and her daughter, Rachel, for the first time in several years to navigate the aftermath of the untimely death of son/brother, Kenny (the family tragedy).
Biologically-bound and even more estranged and unknown to each other than ever, Fay and Rachel find themselves sharing one, double bed (when they were expecting two) in a second-rate motel. Although she’s an adult with a professional life and a young son of her own, we witness just how quickly the old family dynamics nestle back in, when, against her better judgment to get a room with two beds, Rachel acquiesces to her mother’s insistence that one bed will suit them just fine.
Devoid of any meaningful emotional connection to her daughter, and not having a clue as to how to forge one (she never did), Fay lifts Rachel’s bra out of her suitcase, tries it on and smells it (you read that right), as if doing so were a perfectly-apt first attempt to reconnect after a long absence.
Thankfully, the grimness of their situation is offset throughout the play by a variety of comedic scenes depicting the fascinating variety of ways in which we human beings deal with our emotional pain. Kate Brown (Police Officer Terry) shows astute comedic timing and presents a well-developed, complex character who ultimately seeks motherly solace with and approval from Fay.
In two pivotal scenes, Director Robert Mello incorporates the use of choreographed movement as a tool of transition. The first such scene takes place at the police station (featuring Gavin Thagard as Kenny). It is theatrical shaktipat – striking so quickly, deeply, and unexpectedly that its beauty and power brought tears to my eyes and I was still affected by it the next day.
Thanks to our current political climate, most Americans have at least heard the words “narcissistic personality disorder”. Few people, however, are aware that’s it’s a bonafide, intractable mental construct. L.A. Winters (Fay) gives a stellar portrayal of an emotionally-stunted mother in denial coming unglued whose only sense of mooring is her pathological way of being. Savannah Rose Scaffe (Rachel) offers a compelling depiction of the dutiful daughter who, like Superman, weakens as the play progresses in the presence of the kryptonite that is her own mother.
The set is a disparate collection of whitewashed furniture and is underscored by Lighting Designer, Lindsey Sharpless’s, complementary whitewash of light which mirrors the overall lack of consciousness and abdication of responsibility of all characters involved.
Mental health professionals warn against putting oneself in psychological harm’s way when in the presence of a person with an intractable personality disorder. A scene from the 1998 film, “What Dreams May Come” comes to mind. Robin Williams goes to hell to retrieve his wife, who committed suicide after the death of their son. His guardian angel, (Max von Sydow) refuses to go with him and warns him that he has only a matter of minutes in her dark domain before he starts losing consciousness and ends up sealed in her hellish world forever – never to return to his own.
In the play’s final scene of domination, Rachel’s hard-won independent life crumbles in the presence of Fay’s neverending need to feed on the soul of her only surviving child.
Home Sweet Home.
– Sandra Blazynski is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Fall to Earth
By Joel Drake Johnson
RMS Blackbox Theater/The Yard
Directed by Robert Mello
January 18 – February 3, 2019
All proceeds of this production will go to support two mental health organizations that are helping to save lives:
Crisis Text Line and To Write Love on Her Arms.