BWW Review: SINS OF THE MOTHER Smolders at Banks Brothers Productions
SINS OF THE MOTHER is the powerful centerpiece of the Banks Brothers Productions Mother's Day weekend showcase of plays. On May 6th through the 8th this company is presenting a trio of short works including THE CHURCH FIGHT, SAVING GRACE, and this play all at once. Broadway World got to preview the piece that makes up the second half of the evening, and it is a testament to the strength of when you get a cast of strong actresses together to deliver a dynamic drama. SINS OF THE MOTHER deals with three generations of black women as they grapple with the effects of alcohol and abuse as the only constant in their lives. Masterfully acted and expertly directed, it's well worth venturing to the Midtown Arts Center to experience.
The play by Dr. T.D. Morinelli is set in the 1950s among the rowhouses of Philadelphia. We witness two sisters, Pinky (Shundranieka Ross) and Rose (Sonya Gooden) trying to take care of their alcoholic mother (Rita L. Hughes) on her birthday. The matriarch shows disdain for her children's efforts, and there is a sense we are in the presence of a woman struggling with demons. Aunt Bessie (Shay Bernard) shows up, and defends her sister's bad behavior mysteriously as a sickness that must be endured. But then through flashbacks we see the mother and her sibling were severely abused by their own alcoholic mother monster, and the cycle is established. Daughters live on in their mothers, and the question looming over the entire play is whether Pinky and Rose can find a way out before it is too late.
Anchoring SINS OF THE MOTHER is a uniformly great cast who flesh out these roles with passion and sincerity. Key to the whole piece are sisters played by Shundranieka Ross and Sonya Gooden who do a duet of dizzying acting expertise. One is eternally optimistic and foolishly upbeat, while the other is grounded and a pragmatist. The girls play their respective parts, and we believe every second as they swirl around the problem with two varying approaches. Shundranieka flits around always trying to bring things up to her own brightness, while Sonya's character sees the dark despair and deals with it head on. They are amazing to watch as they bounce off each other speaking in words and actions like only expert actresses can. Their unspoken moments rival their speeches and both girls create haunting portraits.
Rita L. Hughes gets the difficult task of playing the mother who is constantly on the verge of slipping into a stupor of addiction and pain. She pulls back just enough for us to see the beauty of the mother, but also explores the dire straits she is in. Adding a comical light touch is Shay Bernard as unflappable Aunt Bessie. She helps bring light onto the stage with her sensible church persona and high class aspirations. In flashbacks Terrie Donald is a striking figure as the grandmother who has set all of this in action. She looms large over the entire work, a terrifying master of insults and breaking dreams with her cast iron tongue and mocking laughter. Oni Muhammad and Ashley Hasker round out the cast as the innocent versions of the mother and sister, and they break hearts with their effective innocence and wide eyed hopes for a better life.
Director Vincent Victoria knows his stuff, and orchestrates SINS OF THE MOTHER like a choral piece. He uses an intense level of volume from his actresses including an exquisite crescendo as past and present conjoin in a sequence where nuns appear to drag off the young version of the mother to a wayward home. Everything builds and builds, and then suddenly in the final stretch he uses lethal silence that underscores the last passages. SINS OF THE MOTHER makes the most of the Midtown Arts Center's thrust stage which places the drama close to the audience. This is an exciting work that holds your attention for the entire running time.
SINS OF THE MOTHER works well, and it makes me excited to see the other two plays that compliment it. You will need to move quickly to catch this one given the one weekend run, but it is certainly well worth the investment in time and effort to attend. It will make you grateful for the blessings of a good mother or console you if the opposite is true. It is well acted, expertly directed, and a reminder of what good theatre does ultimately. It questions the past, and challenges the future to be so much better.
SINS OF THE MOTHER along with THE CHURCH FIGHT and SAVING GRACE only play May 6th through the 8th at Midtown Arts Center located on 3414 La Branch. Tickets can be purchased at www.banksbrothersproductions.com.