BWW Review: 25 QUESTIONS FOR A JEWISH MOTHER at Encore Theatre District
COD student Katrina Dixon has set a performance level in local theatre that will be hard to surpass. In Encore Theatre's production of 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, close to 90% of the 70-minute show is her monologue, and she holds the audience's attention throughout, proving herself to be a deft storyteller.
Actually, the quality of the performance seems to be a result of the collaboration of three women: Dixon, fellow actor Audrey Liebross, and director Tiffany Patscheck. At the start of the show, Dixon pops on stage full of energy and explains that she and another woman went around the country interviewing Jewish women who were mothers. In a moment, we realize she is speaking as the playwright, Judy Gold, and that the remainder of the play will be vignettes of the women she and Kate Moira Ryan interviewed. However, Dixon is soon visited by "her own mother" - Liebross in a very whiney caricature of every Jewish mother ever imagined. She sets the base point of what we expect from the very term "Jewish Mother," and offers a counterpoint to the variety of actual women we will meet in the next hour or so.
Liebross returns to the stage as mom from time to time, and tells a rather ribald joke as Sophie Tucker. Her diminutive stature and high energy make each entrance a joy. She also introduces each of the 20 mothers who were interviewed for the show. In her offstage introductions, she mentions the occupation of the mother, the number of children she has, and the type of Judaism she follows. Those introductions are the only times Dixon gets even a brief chance to catch her breath.
Watching Dixon become each of the 20 different mothers is amazing. Shoulders hunched forward or proudly held back; arms and legs crossed or wide open; glasses on, pulled to the end of her nose, or fully off; her nuances are subtle, but effective. Likewise, each mother's voice is somewhat different, not so much an actor's trick with character voices as truly channeling the various different women.
During the 70-minute show, we learn to break the stereotype of a "Jewish Mother," and also learn a few things about the practice of Judaism, but mostly, we see an incredible performance by a young actress.
The show is presented in Camelot Theatre #3, with the actresses variously standing on the shallow stage which is in front of the screen, or jumping to the floor in front of that stage. The venue worked okay for this production, which is essentially a stand-up routine, but would probably be less effective for a production where we were expected to imagine a location. Also, the lighting is all very hot open white, and seemingly "all or nothing." Okay for this show, but probably not for a more traditional script.
25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, by Judy Gold and Kate Moira Ryan, continues one more weekend, October 4 - 6, at the Camelot Theatre. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, visit www.facebook.com/encoretheatredistrict.
Photo by Johnathan Hill