In today’s Wall Street Journal drama column I review the Broadway premiere of Richard Greenberg’s Our Mother’s Brief Affair. Here’s an excerpt.
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I didn’t have high hopes for “Our Mother’s Brief Affair,” a four-hander about Anna (Linda Lavin), a woman on the brink of senility who confesses to Seth and Abby (Greg Keller and Kate Arrington), her gay twin children, that she once had an extra-marital affair with a man (John Procaccino) who wasn’t what, or whom, he seemed to be. That’s not an unpromising set-up, but to write about it in a superficial way is a recipe for mediocrity. Only Mr. Greenberg, to my surprise, has engaged with his material in an unequivocally personal way this time around: “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” is a memory play, a tale told to the audience by Seth, and it’s plain to see that Mr. Greenberg was plugged directly into the socket of his own psychic life when he wrote it. While the results are flawed, I was never bored by “Our Mother’s Brief Affair,” and some parts of it are quite moving.
Ms. Lavin, the nominal star of the show, plays a physically attractive but “warm-cold” woman who has kept her children at arm’s length throughout her life. She is dissected by Seth in a stream of one-liners that have the sharp sting of well-remembered truth: “She had a tendency to pose…She was nostalgic but not for anything that had ever happened…She said five or six witty things, then repeated them.” The painfully inhibited Seth, who is enraged by Anna’s “decades of benign neglect,” is an even more striking character. A failed violist turned (unwillingly) celibate obituary writer, he is as disappointed with himself as Anna is disappointed with him: ”I’m…limited. One runs out of me quickly.” “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” gets all these things right, and the fact that Seth is a writer by trade justifies his quick-draw quippery. You buy him as a person—and you feel for him.
Unfortunately, “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” slithers off the track at midpoint…
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Read the whole thing here.
A video featurette about Our Mother’s Brief Affair: