Theatre review: Mother May I

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Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. In Randie Parliament’s Mother May I, it is the love between brother and sister that continues to be the most beautifully realized in this dysfunctional family drama.

Following the death of his mother, Peter returns to the small prairie hometown that he grew up in.  As he and his boyfriend begin packing up the household, memories stir as Peter relives his childhood, a time filled with racism, homophobia and even greater evils.

Expanded and tweaked since its original appearance at PAL Theatre just over a year ago (Parliament prefers to call that first run a workshop), the show is now a full 90 minutes in length and sees additional characters added to the story.  And while Parliament continues to refine his semi-autobiographical story, it remains the bond between brother and sister that is the most authentic.

Where last year I hailed Lesli Brownlee as providing the biggest emotional depth in her role as Janie the sister, I now realize that it is in those scenes with Morgan David Jones as Peter that are the most heartfelt and genuine.  Together these two have such an emotional connection that as Janie finally pulls away I felt tears welling up.  And while the rest of the cast (Scott Alonzo, Greg Bishop, Lisa Dahling and Brenda Matthews) bring in nice performances, it was in that relationship between sister and brother that I wished Parliament spent even more time.

With past and present colliding at every turn, drawing the line between what Peter is remembering and his present day interactions is sometimes problematic.  Parliament, who also directs the show, has his cast coming and going at such a furious pace you would swear there was a revolving door off stage left, but after a while it begins to wear a little thin. Where he is most successful are in those moments where both present and past co-exist and where the action naturally moves between the two.  While acknowledging the Havana Theatre must be a technical nightmare, enlisting the help of a lighting professional (none was listed in the program) could also help immensely between transitions in time.

During our recent interview Parliament admitted that he used his actors as a sort of dramaturg “which allows them to have input into their character’s journey”.  Given the gem of a play that still needs a little finesse, I hope that if there is a next iteration Parliament will forgo his actors and bring in a real dramaturg to get his story to that next level that it deserves.  For now though, I’m quite happy to bask in the love between a brother and a sister.

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