Hippo Manchester
November 10, 2005

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Theater: Wake up to ‘night Mother

NTG presenting Pulitzer Prize-winner for two weekends 

By Robert Greene    rgreene@hippopress.com

Long hours of rehearsal, heavy subject matter and the fate of the entire play on her shoulders? Actor Mo Demers says it’s a dream come true.

“I am loving this experience,” she said. “It’s an actor’s dream. The play is an hour and 40 minutes to two hours long and neither of us ever leave the stage.”

The other half of Demers’ “neither” is actor Mary Morris, who plays “Mama” to Demers’ “Jessie” in Nashua Theatre Guild’s upcoming production of ‘night Mother.

‘night Mother is a Pulitzer Prize-winner by playwright Marsha Norman. It opened in 1983 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., with Kathy Bates as Jessie. Sissy Spacek played Jessie and Anne Bancroft played Mama in the 1986 movie.

It’s not your usual community theater fare, say the local actors and director Guy Noyes, because it makes you think and there are no easy answers to the questions it poses.

“It’s also not a show that is overdone,” Noyes said. “It’s not Grease. I like that not a lot of people have seen this. They’re not all saying this is the play where the woman wants to kill herself.”

In the play, Jessie is an epileptic who lives with her mother. She was married once, and has a son who is now addicted to drugs. Because of her illness, she can’t hold down a job. Life is entirely unsatisfactory to her and she wants to quit. As she tells her mother, “ I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

One night, while preparing to do her mother’s nails, Jessie announces her plan to end her life by morning. Mama, suffice to say, is shocked and rallies to talk her daughter out of her plan.

‘night Mother is a tightly constructed, beautifully written drama. Done well on stage, it’s breathtaking. Noyes says his actors are up to the task. They’re even adopting the southern accents suggested by the play’s setting.

“ I love theater and it is really important to me that it really affects the audience’s life,” Noyes said. “I am hoping that the audience will walk away from the show saying, ‘God, I wouldn’t want to be in those people’s shoes, ever.’”

The actors agreed. Both women say being in the show has made them rethink the issue of suicide and, although it didn’t change their opinion or belief, they now understand the issue better.

“Jessie has been a difficult character to get a hold of,” Demers said. “She has planned this whole evening out as a way to get her mother to understand and respect her decision to commit suicide. It’s not a cry for help — for her, at least, this is a logical step.”

Morris said she empathizes with Jessie’s mother, who is desperate to keep her daughter alive.

“There is no question in this play that the mother loves the daughter and the daughter loves the mother,” Morris said.

‘night Mother will run two weekends — 8 p.m. Nov. 11-12, and Nov. 18-19 — at the Bedford Old Town Hall Theatre, Meetinghouse Road, Bedford. Tickets are $12. Call 320-2530 or visit nasuatheatreguild.org.