BWW Review: 'NIGHT, MOTHER at Ankeny Community Theatre: Tackling a Difficult Topic

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BWW Review: 'NIGHT, MOTHER at Ankeny Community Theatre: Tackling a Difficult Topic
Charissa Hamel as Thelma
Beth Feilmeir as Jessie

Suicide and mental illness are issues that people have a hard time discussing. When theatres take on one of these subjects, they have to ride a very thin line about how far they can push the subject and still be excepted by their audience. Each person's reaction can be very different. Ankeny Community Theatre (ACT) is taking that risk with their production of "'Night, Mother" which opened on October 31. Because the topic of suicide can have different implications for each person that sees the show, I'm not going say if I felt the play tackles that subject successfully or not, but I'm going to focus on what Ankeny is doing successfully with this show.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play "'Night Mother" centers around mother and daughter Thelma and Jessie Cates. The show starts when Jessie tells her mother that she is going to kill herself that evening. While at first her mother Thelma doesn't believe her, it becomes clear that Jessie is telling the truth. The characters seemingly go on opposing paths in the play. Jessie spends the show making sure things are taken care of for her mother, while Thelma focusing on the things that she can change to make things better. Eventually, a secret comes out that Jessie is unaware of, but it doesn't change her mind. This leads to an ending that will leave the audience emotionally raw as they leave the theatre.

While this show may only run for 4 performances, ACT isn't treating it any differently than they would their Mainstage production. The set designed by Frank Sposeto III, Lisa Gould, Alexis Gould, and Michael Porche, is one of the best and intricate sets I've seen at ACT. In the space they had, it felt like they put the small house on stage. The cramped space plays into the inevitability of the evening's events.

The cast is led by two amazing actresses who are bravely tackling this material and presenting this emotionally raw show. In the role of the daughter, Jessie is Beth Feilmeir. She takes such care with this character to make sure that whatever your feelings are about suicide, you can still feel for this character. She can balance the idea of needing to escape the world she is in, yet also trying to make her mother is taken care of.

Charissa Hamel brings the role of Thelma to the stage. Watching her character slowly realize she is losing her child is heartbreaking. What makes it so heartbreaking is that she brings every emotion I've seen people go through who have lost someone to suicide, be it a friend or family member. This is so important as the audience needs to feel the pain and anguish she goes through the last few moments of the show, which Charissa expertly leaves every ounce of her on the stage.

While this show deals with suicide, which is not an easy subject, it does an amazing job and delivering a solid production that will stick with you. The cast and crew have put together a show that not only addresses the topic but leaves the audience thinking about it for days to come. Ankeny Community Theatre's production of "'Night, Mother" runs for one week only through November 3. To find out more about this show, visit https://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com/night-mother.html

Review written by DC Felton
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