Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre
By Lizzie Milanovich
Directed by Cassandra Lovering
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) Location, location, location. That was the thought that crossed my mind as I took a seat at the Plaza Black Box Theatre, and just from looking over the set the placement of It’s Not About My Mother was perfect. Not only does the show itself take place in a basement, the theatre is located in a similar setting, which was welcomingly orienting.
The walls, littered with storage boxes, give the audience the impression of clutter. They are labeled in black permanent marker and two half-sisters, with about a decade of age difference between them, have returned to their family house to weed through the junk. Their mother died, but the two are mourning two different people. Older sister Midge (Louise Hamill) remembers a woman who headed a magazine; a hardworking mother who she came home to take care of in her final illness. Meanwhile, 22-year-old sister Nancy (Gianella Flores) only knew their mother as an addict and left home at an early age without looking back. But the unifying force between them was the haunting, and at times liberating, memory of music.
Milanovich’s greatest triumph with show is her use of Fleetwood Mac. It plays in the background throughout the entire production and serves as a fluid transitional piece for flashback sequences. However, the choice to open the show with a scene set in flashback was an odd choice that left me a bit confused.
While music worked to transition between past and present, lighting cues felt a bit off. During scenes in the present, florescent bulbs glared from above, and in flashbacks there was only the glow of vintage lamps. At many points, the florescent lights lingered during these transitions and felt like a distraction, especially when it appeared that everything else in the scene had completed the transition to the past.
As for the actors, Louise Hamill struggled to embrace Midge, a bit complicated of a character, acting as both mother and sister to Nancy. She’s a business type who’s uncomfortable with her sexuality and appeared to have some type of aggressive OCD or similar condition that was never really explained. Whatever the case, Hamill’s facial expressions were limited to a permanent scowl and felt too staged and measured, unable to feed off the raw energy of her costar.
Gianella Flores as younger sister Nancy, a playful, free-spirited young woman, was so convincing and honest in her performance that I was mesmerized by her every movement. Flores was able to keep the show balanced and moving forward while drawing in the audience with her burning charisma.
In the final scene, Rhiannon plays in full force, slowly escalating in volume as the two sisters twirl and dance around in what I would define as the most liberating experience I have ever witnessed in theatre. It achieves a climax so freeing that I wanted to jump up and dance around with the actors. This scene alone is the strongest selling point to see the show and provided a thrilling conclusion that proves it really isn’t about their mother.
This is not a Fleetwood Mac musical, but it does a great service to their music through a narrative of pain, the past, and healing. It’s Not About My Mother runs for an hour and fifteen minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.