Her Smile Contains A Primal Scream: “Morning, Noon, and Night”

Sydney Jackson, Kaili Y. Turner (Photography by Ken Yotsukura)

Presented by Company One Theatre with Boston University’s College of Fine Arts
A new play by Kirsten Greenidge
Directed by Summer L. Williams
Dramaturgy by Ilana M. Brownstein
Featuring: Kaili Y. Turner, Sydney Jackson, Eliza Fichter, Schanaya Barrows, Aislinn Brophy, Alexandria King

Apr 26 – May 25, 2024
Boston Center for the Arts
Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Company One presents Kirsten Greenidge’s Morning, Noon, and Night at the BCA through May 25. Greenidge’s play examines society’s crushing demand for motherly perfection with brilliant comedy and heartrending honesty. She is joined by director Summer L Williams, and dramaturg Ilana M Brownstein to complete Company One’s trifecta of power. 

It is the lockdown. Mia (Kaili Y. Turner) is an overwhelmed mother and office worker navigating the slow return to in-person interactions. She loves her daughter Dailyn (Sydney Jackson) but doesn’t understand Dailyn’s doomsday obsession with climate change or the internet. They both want their home to be perfect for the birthday of Mia’s eldest daughter Alex. 

Mia tries to juggle parenting, working, and womanhood. Her attempts aren’t always successful. She commiserates with her best friend Heather (Eliza Fichter) over cardio beats. She locks herself away in her house to impulse shop. 

Dailyn’s friends Chloe (Schanaya Barrows) and Nat (Aislinn Brophy) support her with teenage buoyancy while worrying about their futures post-high school. They are already inundated with messages about achieving academic excellence and the femme ideal. Intergenerational trauma is impossible to prevent when it is coming from inside and outside the home. 

All is unwell until Dailyn, Chloe, and Nat discover that a popular Instagram cleaning influencer Miss Candace (Alexandria King) has disappeared from the internet. It turns out Miss Candace has waltzed from the reels of TikTok and through Mia’s front door. Mia opens the door to Miss Candance and her world turns upside down. Morning, Noon, and Night discusses female rage, mental health disorders, and society’s part in forcing trauma upon generations of women and AFAB persons through the internet. 

There’s a quote attributed to writers Amy Westervelt and Eve Rodsky: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.” We’re told we can have it all, but we have to do it silently, effortlessly, invisibly. No one wants to see the emotional and physical labor behind the facades of wifedom and motherhood. (It’s supposed to look effortless so Patriarchal forces can persist in the lie that women’s work isn’t Real Work and can remain unpaid.) Morning, Noon, and Night shows us the swamp of anxiety, fear, and depression beneath one mother’s struggle to be everything demanded of her: super mom, career woman, and flawless femme. It’s impossible. Perfection is a lie. 

Kaili Y. Turner is as organized as Mia is disheveled. Her work is strategically executed and thorough. Turner is simultaneously all women and solely Mia. I saw my mother, my grandmothers, my mentors, teachers, friends, and myself in her portrayal. That is beautiful and deeply depressing, because, despite intersectional feminism’s strides in the 21st Century, almost nothing has changed regarding society’s demands on us. 

Turner as Mia has an entirely reasonable, thoroughly earned, completely understandable breakdown when all her secrets come to light. She’s one woman doing the work of three women. It is relatable because it is common. What is called a mid-life crisis in others is a tantrum in us. It’s wrong. Greenidge, Williams, and Turner capture the rightness and the wrongness in this breakdown.  

Kaili Y. Turner, Alexandria King, Eliza Fichter, Sydney Jackson (Photography by Annielly Camargo)

Alexandria King as Miss Candance is the converse to Mia. Miss Candace is pulled together, kind, tastefully dressed with a natural makeup look that men love, and no doubt smells pleasantly like organically grown, locally sourced lemon water filtered through sunlight. Of course she does, she’s an influencer goddess plucked from the mind of an AI algorithm like Athena from Zeus. King plays her like a citrus-fresh Glinda meets Dorothy Dandridge with lyrical arm gestures and an ethereal Atlantic accent. 

Miss Candance and Mia are polar opposites, but Greenidge doesn’t pit them against each other. Greenidge doesn’t force any of her characters to fight. Instead, they offer each other sympathy and compassion. Because, women shouldn’t fight each other. Our true enemies are the arbitrary rules mandating the perfection we cannot achieve. Let’s fight those rules together. 

Please check out the dramaturgical resources here

Designers Jason Ries & Karen Krolak (Props Designers) Maria Servellon (Projections Designer), Christopher Brusberg (Lighting Designer), Aubrey Dube (Sound Designer), Justin Lahue (Scenic Designer) create the disordered world of Mia and Dailyn’s home and inside their internet connections. With a projected social media image and a pile of jumbled cords, the designers tell us who these characters are and what they are up against.  

Morning, Noon and Night is the famous monologue from Barbie and the iconic bit about womanhood by Michelle Wolf. It’s articles about intersectional feminism and necessary micro-affirmations in work meetings to credit women for their contributions. It is timeless and an immediate reflection of current events. 

I would be remiss in my duties as a culture critic if I didn’t link Morning, Noon, and Night to the bigoted speech made by the friend of Taylor Swift, Isabelle Butker’s husband’s degrading graduation commencement speech. Hug a physicist today; she needs it. 

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