BWW Review: The Ties that Bind Us in Eastern Bridge Theatre Troupe's STRINGS
Do you ever think about how much of this life is planned, sculpted by human hands to go the way we desire it to? How, no matter what we have been taught or the values we hold dear to our hearts, there will always be something beyond our reach that we cannot control - something we cannot ever predict will happen? Factor in the variables of chance, fate, human error and the like, and life begins to go slightly off the course we may have imagined it to follow. Once a child leaves the arms of a loving mother to venture out into the world, it is a chance taken as to what will happen next. In what is both alarming and exciting, the possibilities life will give to us are infinite and haphazard - they do not follow a guidebook, and as values are tested and tried is when the 'self' is truly formed. This is the wonderful lesson that Eastern Bridge Theatre Troupe's Strings teaches its audience so well.
Written by Anna Rak and Palmyra Mattner, and under the direction of Kira Kull, Strings is an original play that is now playing for a limited time at the Access Theatre in Tribeca, celebrating its New York premiere; the show also marks EBTT's second NY production. A theater troupe of unique origins and aspirations, Eastern Bridge strives to bring together the voices, experiences and talents of those who are culturally or ethically different, but collaborate for the purpose of providing a unique theatrical experience. By giving expression to these "foreign voices," the cast, creative team and theater-goers alike now have this special opportunity to bring what is different together to share in the purity of a mother's love.
Strings is a wonderful story which so simply makes parallels between how our mothers strive to teach what is 'right,' and how such teachings are combated against both changing times and unexpected (and at times off-beat or misconstrued) circumstances. The plot revolves around eight month pregnant Lucy as she reads through a guidebook written for expecting mothers in 1950's Chicago. With each chapter she reads, comparable moments take place in the present that not only show how such values are sometimes difficult to uphold in present day, but also how what has always been cannot necessarily translate into what is to come.
A myriad of emotions take shape with such circumstances as a comical dinner date, an awkward after-work discussion and happenings which a 1950's mother with her unborn child could not have possibly predicted would ever be. So saying, though, Lucy becomes a bit more skeptical (and therefore progressive) with each chapter she reads, so the seed of change has already been planted; it is what comes after that tries us for who we are.
Strings is so unique and clever because of how it takes such a simple idea and compels the audience to think about quite a few things at once - those changes that bring about a sense of nostalgia even within people who were not there to witness this change firsthand. I was taken aback by just how unpredictable life can be - not just because of a change in decade or philosophy, but just how we find ourselves in those predicaments or challenging circumstances we wind up in. This is something universal, which is what Eastern Bridges emphasizes so greatly with its strong desire to bring what is diverse together, and it truly amazes me.
For example, Lucy reads from a chapter that explains how children should approach strangers, which then translates into a scene about the unfortunate situation a woman is in because of her roommate's freeloading (and rather stinky) brother. Another chapter explains how having a child is truly a heavenly gift, a scene then juxtaposed to a woman who does everything traditionally and morally right and is still unable to conceive.
What this show so aptly portrays is how life, regardless of person or era (but still made more complicated because of the rather "touchy" times we live in today) is really so random and seemingly without rules, that the irony of a woman reading a guidebook for how to raise a child glares at us from not very afar. I loved this show, as I myself try to plan and determine how things will pan out in the end. Strings takes this a step further and makes you wonder how a mother remains unafraid of letting go of her child and allowing life to happen; it must be daunting.
A mother's love is something precious, and it follows us throughout our lives as a guiding force, a helping hand and, as Anna and Palmyra believe, something that comes to "blossom into a friendship rather than an obligatory bond." Even though times change, Strings allows a very beautiful message to remain crystal clear: a mother's love never fades, no matter who we become and where this may happen. It may transform and be molded, but who we are now and who we choose to become are based on values we are compelled to follow as were taught to us long ago; we never stop seeing the love for ourselves that our mothers instilled within us long, long ago.
The cast, comprised of Anna Rak, Palmyra Mattner, Cristina Sebastian and Maurice McPherson really does a wonderful job in keeping the momentum going and the connections between each scene strong. They are versatile in their roles and do really well to portray humanity as a whole in the few characters each plays, making the message that much more profound. Towards the end of the play, Palmyra plays an author who speaks about the difficult situations the women of her family have been faced with (many generations down the line from Lucy), but kept on nevertheless. She is perpetually interrupted by her interviewer, who is only interested in how her audience will take to the answers being given; what is being said has little value to her otherwise. This ties in to the true end of the show, when Lucy swears that she will always be there for her child. It is a shame how some cannot truly appreciate the fortitude of a mother's love; let's all try to appreciate ours just a little more if we are able.
In short, please go and see the show!
Strings began performances at the Access Theatre (at the Gallery Space, located at 380 Broadway) on October 4th and will run thru October 8th. Tickets are $20 for general admission and can be purchased by visiting the Troupe's website (below). There will be shows on October 4th, 5th and 6th @ 7:30 pm, October 7th @ 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm and October 8th @ 3:00 pm.
For more information on Strings, please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/strings-an-original-play#/story.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: James Amorosino