Hopewell premieres two short plays
By Eric McCrea
The Hopewell Theatre unveiled its annual Evening of One Acts last weekend with two new locally written works that look at parent-child relationships. “Astrid, or My Swedish Mama” by Anita G. Gorman and “Dad’s Tale” by Terry Shears drew a large audience Saturday night.
In the first act, Gorman plays her own real-life mother, Astrid, who immigrated to the United States to study nursing. The act is structured partly like a mother-daughter conversation and partly like a presentation on Swedish culture, with the actors directly addressing the audience.
Astrid’s malapropisms mix with a visual-aid assisted lesson on Swedish language structure to make the show very cute. Anita’s daughter Ingrid M. Gorman plays Anita in this novel approach to an autobiographical family story. However, the actors seemed to struggle at times to keep names and pronouns in order because of this generational shift.
Anita Gorman was charming as her delightfully accented mother, but in writing the character of Anita she was rather clinical. There was less of a familial feeling in the character of Anita, who instead acted more like an interviewer with the focus being on Astrid’s life.
Ingrid Gorman had an interesting challenge on her hands; playing her mother, next to her mother, written by her mother. Fortunately, she did the role justice, and made the audience feel like part of the family.
The author smartly balanced the light-hearted aspects of the show with a serious tone which explored Astrid’s youth and regrets.
In “Dad’s Tale” Shears explores a tense father-son relationship at two points of time. The act jumps between past and present, showing teenage Alex being cared for by his Dad, then showing an adult Alex with Dad being cared for in a nursing home.
In the past, the Dad is played by Carl Brockway with Carter Monroe as young Alex. Brockway did a great job as the stern, criticizing father who can never say “I love you“ to his son.
In Brockway, you can see the struggle of wanting to, but his inability to overcome his ego causes him pain. He approached being downright mean at times with a noticeable subtext of paternal love. Monroe provided impressive support as a difficult teenager, who just wants affection.
In the present scenes, the Dad is played by Tom O’Donnell with Frank Martin as Alex. O’Donnell was amazing in the role, terrifying and terrified at the same time. It’s hard to tell if he’s been more aged by time, or the burden of being emotionally withholding. There were moments when he wore the deepest regret on his face, telling the whole story.
Martin delivered a dynamic and moving performance as grown-up Alex. He showed the burdens of family obligation skillfully.
Shears’ work was really well-done. The script is complete and touching with the kind of well-developed characters that actors love to play.
“An Evening of One Acts” will continue at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hopewell, 702 Mahohing Ave. For reservations, call 330-746-5455.