Jeff Smith 12:01 p.m., March 29
Jesse Cates wants this Saturday night to be "like every other night in the world." She'll do her mother Thelma's nails, maybe have some cocoa. Early in Marsha Norman's stark, bullet-train of a drama, you'd swear that Jesse's the mother and Thelma's the passive, dependent daughter. Jesse gives her instructions (using the washing machine, milk deliveries). Then Jesse raises her father's pistol from a shoe box. She's killing herself tonight, she says, as soon as she "feels good enough inside" to do it. For 90 minutes, which move with the inevitability of Greek tragedy, Thelma urges her daughter to pull back from the point of no return. Studies show that - as in night Mother and Kroetz's Request Programme (recently at Ion Theatre) - many suicides aren't impulsive acts. Instead, the person becomes calm, even organized. It's as if, having found a kind of clarity, termination's the most rational choice. Norman offers reasons for Jesse's decision but leaves out a defining one. She just needs to go. Thelma, whose life's been a floor-to-ceiling misery, has several reasons for saving her daughter, among them not being left alone in "the quiet." The brand new Ascension Theatre Company, of Lemon Grove, has staged a gritty, capable production. Jo Dempsey's doomed Jesse's in complete, unwavering control. At times Dempsey hits notes so even-tempered that they're eerie. Joan Westmoreland could ratchet up the desperation a bit more, but in the end reaches the condition where impulsive suicides commit the act. Under Charmen Jackson's tight direction, this show merits a much larger audience than when I caught it.
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Sunday, June 29, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 8pm