Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: NOTES ON MY MOTHER'S DECLINE Echoes Grief at Fourth Street Theatre

Review: NOTES ON MY MOTHER'S DECLINE Echoes Grief at Fourth Street Theatre
Ari Fliakos & Caroline Lagerfelt
Photo: Julieta Cervantes

With a certain and subdued beauty, NOTES ON MY MOTHER'S DECLINE softens the blow that expectations, memory and loss deal to a contemporary mother/son relationship. Even as vivid descriptions of sights, smells, tastes and textures fill their liminal space, a void of grief remains.

In this autobiographical one-act play written by Andy Bragen, "Son" (Ari Fliakos) compiles mental notes about "Mother" (Caroline Lagerfelt) as she updates him on her evolving health condition and rich storied past. Lagerfelt delivers a poignant performance as an arts-savvy woman who navigates her New York East Village apartment not head-down in a natty robe, but chin-up in a quilted pink housecoat. Fliakos (an award-winning voiceover artist), employs vocal restraint and resonance to great effect as he accumulates information and narrates insights.

According to Son's notes, her home "...smells of smoke so deep that you are aware of it in the building's hallways, when you step out of the elevator, when you walk toward her door from twenty feet away. It permeates your clothes, your hair. It permeates every single object, animate or otherwise, that enters or exits the space."

Note by note, the show takes its time as Mother and Son make peace with their past, present, and future with delicate deliberation. The last show I saw directed by Knud Adams had similar perfect pacing: the fever-dreamy An Intimate Evening With Typhoid Mary, which takes place in a quarantined hospital room that is interrupted by a clinical parade of medical students, a doctor, a nurse and an orderly. In NOTES ON MY MOTHER'S DECLINE, a different kind of bedside drama-within-a-diorama plays out, as a serene and monochromatic warm-white set opens to audience seated on two sides. This world premiere is bolstered by a set design by Marsha Ginsberg, costume design by Sophia Choi, lighting design by Oona Curley, sound design by Peter Mills Weiss, and projection design by Knud Adams.

Late in the play, Mother declares "We're a family of stories." This is not revelatory; by this time the duo has been using stories effectively as both buffers and bridges. That's one of the reasons that throughout NOTES, the bond between Mother and Son flexes but remains strong. Their caregiver/receiver roles seem to reconfigure rather than reverse, exemplified by the actors trading places physically as easily as they swap memories, comfortably settling into moments of both silence and grace.

NOTES ON MY MOTHER'S DECLINE runs through October 27th. Tickets are available here.



Premiere of FLIGHT DELAY By Peter Anderegg Will Open at The Tank Next Week Photo
On December 1st Thisbe Theater Company opens Peter Anderegg's Flight Delay directed by Kelly Morgan at The Tank. The production runs until the 18th at 312 West 36th Street in New York City.

LEAVES by Victor Vauban Jr. to be Presented at Teatro LATEA in December Photo
'LEAVES” by Victor Vauban Jr. will be presented at Teatro LATEA Nov.30th, Dec. 2nd & 4th. The primary themes of this play include assimilation, colorism, the importance of family and mental health.

Vangeline Theater/New York Butoh Institute to Host Fundraising Gala in December Photo
Vangeline Theater has announced a Fundraising Gala on Sunday, December 11, 2022 at 8pm at Temple NYC, Brooklyn. Proceeds from the gala will support sending dancers to Houston, Texas, from February 6-10, 2023 to make history conducting a pilot study for The Slowest Wave - the first neuroscientific study of Butoh.

Cast Announced For the Festival of New Jewish Plays Photo
The Jewish Plays Project has announced casting for the Festival of New Jewish Plays, running November 30 and December 1 at the JCC.


From This Author - Derek McCracken


Review: ONCE UPON A (KOREAN) TIME at LA MAMA COMES IN HOT, STIRS THE POTReview: ONCE UPON A (KOREAN) TIME at LA MAMA COMES IN HOT, STIRS THE POT
September 5, 2022

Presented by Ma-Yi Theater Company and directed by Obie-winner Ralph B. Peña, the world premiere of Daniel K. Isaac’s ambitious nested-narrative play, ONCE UPON A (KOREAN) TIME comes in hot and stirs the cultural pot, layering traditional Korean folk tales amidst a legacy of trauma, love, and endurance.

Review: LOVE QUIRKS at AMT TheaterReview: LOVE QUIRKS at AMT Theater
July 13, 2022

You can’t hurry LOVE QUIRKS. After a 27-month hiatus due to the 2020 pandemic, the award-winning musical has returned to off-Broadway with 18 songs and some timely Tinder wisdom: being “single and ready to mingle” means recognizing quirks, ignoring smirks, and rejecting jerks.

BWW Review: BUGGY BABY Zigzags Down A Humor-Horror Rabbit Hole at APACBWW Review: BUGGY BABY Zigzags Down A Humor-Horror Rabbit Hole at APAC
June 6, 2022

Surreal and surreptitious, the comedy-horror BUGGY BABY centers on some displaced immigrants in London seeking normalcy despite the lunacy in their lives. Written by Josh Azouz and directed by Rory McGregor, the US premiere of this twisted tale also features a multi-talented toddler character and a pair of dastardly rabbits.

BWW Review: COSMICOMICS at The New Stage TheatreBWW Review: COSMICOMICS at The New Stage Theatre
April 19, 2022

Thematically expansive within its intimate performance space, the paradoxical primordial soup swirling in COSMICOMICS blends the essential elements of earth, air, fire, and water with music, storytelling, ballet, and absurdist humor.

BWW Review: THE LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS at La MaMaBWW Review: THE LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS at La MaMa
March 16, 2022

These ladies don't lunch; they launch, twist, lurch, pop and topple. Meet Lorca, Topo, Nivea and Pinny: the more-sweet-than-tart troupe in LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS. The comedic performance-art-within-a-play follows a group of New York City senior (70ish) girlfriends, all alumnae of Lemon Elementary. As they find their footing in a youth-paced world, they step outside their comfort zones and onto the stage. Artistically in it together even if they’re not always sure what “it” is, the Lemon Girls show us that age is just a number: '5-6-7-8!'