Jessie intends to take her own life tonight. Thelma, her mother, will try anything she can to persuade her daughter to choose differently. However, Jessie has made up her mind. She is out of options. In a desperate attempt to help Thelma understand, Jessie leans across the table, and says:
“But I can stop it. Shut It down. Turn it off like the radio when there is on I want to listen to. It’s all I really have that belongs to me, and I’m going to say what happens to it.”
The moment is simple, but powerful. As Jessie leans towards the camera, we on the other end of this virtual production feel her intensity through the eye contact. We not only see her from the audience perspective, but also the same view that Thelma has from her own side of the screen. We intrude on this moment of intimacy, and you too might just find yourself feeling the emotional tension bubbling through the computer screen.
Invictus Theatre Presents ‘Night, Mother
Written by Marsha Norman, ‘Night, Mother centers on Thelma (Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter) and Jessie (Courtney Gardner) – a mother and daughter in the midst of a crisis. When Jessie announces to her mom that she intends to kill herself that evening, the two embark on a deeply emotional journey. Thelma begs, negotiates, and tries anything she can to persuade her daughter to choose otherwise. The fight spirals into the past as the two unpack years of history, and the impacts that mental health has had upon their relationship.
Effective Use of Tech
Helmed by Director Diane Sintich in the midst of a pandemic, the production features the two women in the safety of their own spaces. While this might prove challenging for a play that is so much based around intimate conversation between the two characters, Sintich and her team clearly worked to unify these spaces as much as possible, in this reviewer’s opinion..
The evening’s conversation takes a wide range of turns, and at one point lands on the subject of Jessie’s father who had passed a few years before. The two are in the kitchen – Gardner sitting at the table in her own space, and Yelton-Hunter by the cabinets in her own. All is quiet until Jessie calmly asks if Thelma ever loved her father. Truths are revealed as Thelma admits she was always jealous of her daughter’s closeness with the man, and how those insecurities impacted her own feelings towards her husband. They unpack dark, repressed emotions. In the midst of the conversation, Thelma is making hot chocolate, and we watch the two hand over props through the screen. Jessie hands her mom cocoa and milk, and Thelma later hands her a cup.letting us feel the. intimacy of the scene as if they are in the same space, and we are there too.
At the root of this play is a story about a mother and daughter – one full of love, but also pain. Talk of mortality and impending time clock breaks down barriers –unleashing pure honesty to pour out. Norman’s script takes dark turns; however, there are also moments of hope and comedy, letting us feel the joy in this mother/daughter relationship.
Walking the line between heartbreaking and darkly comedic, ‘Night, Mother creates an evening full of conversation and reflection.
Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter (Thelma)
Courtney Gardner (Jessie)
Diane Sintich (Director)
Charles Askenaizer (Production Manager)
Arlicia McClain (Assistant Director)
Kate McDuffie (Stage Manager)
Satoe Schechner (Costume Designer)
Chad Lussier (Online/Technical Director)
Joseph Beal (Casting Director/Set/Props Designer)
Offered virtually through November 8, 2020
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7pm
Sundays at 3pm
Online via video link.
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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