Some theater performers are known as “triple threats”because they act, sing, and dance. Given that Melinda Buckley, an actor with Broadway credits (Crazy For You) and former ballet soloist, also writes brilliantly, perhaps she should be called a quadruple threat. But do not feel threatened, feel fortunate, because Miss Buckley brings her considerable wide-ranging talents to a marvelous new solo show, Mother.
In Mother, Melinda Buckley tells the story of her mother Eileen’s descent into dementia and her own symbiotically-connected life as she descends into “de-middle age.” Using a combination of narration interspersed with hilarious comedy vignettes, Miss Buckley achieves the perfect blend.
The show tells Eileen Buckley’s history escaping from war-torn Hungary via a short-lived marriage to an American soldier who leaves her to raise two young children by herself in suburban Massachusetts. A feisty “Hungarian Mama Rose”, Eileen Buckley manages well and poorly enough to engender life-long gratitude and co-dependence in her daughter. Any obstacle Eileen encounters can be fended off by either her smarts, her beauty, or a well-placed, “go to hell darling and tell them Zsa Zsa sent you.”
Miss Buckley spends an appropriately modest amount of time relating family history and instead adroitly steers us through the mother and daughter’s parallel journeys with touching emotional vignettes, e.g. —Melinda dressing up her mother (rather than dolls) for dates, a shared experience at the ballet, and an-ill advised but ultimately pleasurable bike ride to Plymouth Rock. The joy and genius of this show is Miss Buckley’s ability to have us on the verge of tears and then make us laugh. This supremely satisfying tandem is brilliantly employed for the entirety of the performance.
I am a huge fan of sit-down monologuists Mike Daisey and the late Spalding Gray, but seeing Melinda Buckley take command of a stage with her flawless movement and comedic skills creates a more fully satisfying solo show experience. Given the ubiquity of mental slippage among aging parents and the complex range of emotions their children feel as a result, this perfect exploration of the topic should resonate with all who attend.
See Mother —or feel very guilty at what a good-for-nothing, ungrateful child you are.
Mother – Written and performed by Melinda Buckley, Director: Christine Renee Miller
Presented by FringeNYC. Sound Design: Ronnie Lawson; ACR: Danielle Gautier; Public Relations: Paul Siebold / Off Off PR.
Mother will play three additional performances as part of the Best of Fringe at the C.O.W. — The Celebration of Whimsy, 21-A Clinton Street — on the following schedule: Friday September 26 @ 7:30 pm; Saturday September 27 @ 7:30 pm; Monday, September 29 @ 4:00 pm. Running time: 70 minutes.