By Holli Harms

Telling our truth out loud is empowering, not only for the teller, but for those who are a witness to the telling.

Karen Trachtenberg has written and now performs her family’s truth, expressing a complicated and universal story all can relate to. The two faces of her mother; one, the devoted to her family face, and the other side of the mask, out of control and abusive. It goes without saying that it is confusing to a child to have a parent who is both the adoring mommy and then the monster who belittles you and constantly chastises your every move. One minute you are being loved and the next attacked. Abusers in TV and film are portrayed as horrific, being only one thing and nothing more. But we humans are so much more complicated than those portrayals, and those complications are what Trachtenberg is exploring in her one person show My Mother Had Two Faces, presented by United Solo Festival at Theatre Row.

The simple set, a small table with mirror and makeup, and a mardi gras type mask. All specifically placed to illustrate how Trachtenberg’s mother, Verena Trachtenberg, was a woman devoted to her looks; makeup was her art. The makeup she wore as an outward cover to a jumbled inside and a way to illicit control. The constant cover up linked to perfectionism were her mothers vices. Verena’s home, her children, must all be perfect. Fall off the pedestal of perfection, or cause it to rock, and there will be consequences.

This is a quiet, fun, frightening and  beautiful performance by Trachtenberg as she wears the masks of her mother. Trachtenberg uses the fairy tale “mirror on the wall” (a video screen) as her acting partner. She is the face in the mirror asking herself deep questions that lead to deeper answers that are beyond the obvious delving further into both her mother’s world and her own. One of the window’s we get to peek into is her mother’s diaries that she found when cleaning her mother’s home after she was placed in assisted living.

This is not to imply that this is a therapy session staged. Not at all. It is a laid bare life, thoroughly lived, that everyone can relate to.

My Mother Had Two Faces written and performed by Karen Trachtenberg, directed by and developed with Jessica Lynn Johnson

United Solo Festival Running Through April 28th at Theatre Row 410 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036