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A CurtainUp Review
Class Mothers '68
by Brad Bradley

Priscilla Lopez
Priscilla Lopez
(Photo: Jean-Marie Guyaux)
Priscilla Lopez, ever since she literally took center stage as Morales, the acting student who famously felt "Nothing" in A Chorus Line (incredibly more than a quarter century ago - in April 1975, for those who care, and several years after her actual Broadway debut in a fabled flop Henry, Sweet Henry), has been among the friendliest and most welcome faces seen on New York stages, and her solo appearance in Eric H. Weinberger's six-character comedy called Class Mothers '68 is indeed a bravura turn. From the moment she appears in the first of a half-dozen maternal guises, Ms. Lopez has the audience squarely on her side with her bountiful bonhomie. Although her original idea was to share the six characters of the play with another actress, career commitments interfered with that plan, causing her to settle on the author's suggestion that she play all the mothers required in this imagined parental entertainment for their teenaged offspring in honor of their high school graduation.

Lopez's accomplishment is all the more impressive, considering that the first character she must portray in this initially lighthearted but sometimes remarkably tender serial monologue construction. That individual is quintessential Jewish class mother Harriet Jacoby, perfect in her own mind yet also the perfectly annoying parent of purportedly perfect son Russell who is about to graduate from fancy Fanwood High School. Harriet wields her dial telephone like a tool of war, unrelenting in her badgering to anyone who will even pretend to listen.

This fine actress then materializes before our eyes into her next assignment, Nilda Mercado, much easier company, and an old-fashioned hen who "sits on her chickees until they are ready." In addition to her amateur performance duties, Nilda is constructing the costumes for the parents' entertainment night, and her satisfaction understandably is fueled by daughter Marisol, a star student on her way to Sarah Lawrence College, the first in the family to venture into higher education.

Mother number three is Lee Drake, who owes a bit of inspiration to Joan Collins in her eternal self-grooming for sexiness. In fact, Lee, who boasts of letting her teenage son Danny run his own life, is the ultimate laissez-faire parent; her focus, not surprisingly, is on her own pleasure, for this female version of Hugh Heffner freely admits that she "would rather be bad than sad." Lee's effusive relating of her wanderlust throughout Danny's childhood is a great excuse for set designer Beowulf Boritt's already stunningly versatile and varied set designs to score additional points for cleverness. Lee's Warhol-inspired living room art becomes a projection vehicle for illustrating her international amorous adventures.

Rosemarie, frumpy and sadly suppressed wife to sculptor Sidney Spitzer, is known to have a nightingale-like voice suggesting Jeanette MacDonald, and therefore became essential casting for the parental production. The likes of Rosemarie in 1968 give not a clue to the about-to-blossom women's movement.

Gretel Gesslauer, clearly overworked yet rarely complaining, has the saddest life of the six. On top of the challenges of a sensitive son and a thoroughly insensitive husband, she has a haunting holocaust past. As a war survivor, she finds herself a committed pacifist as Vietnam unravels.

The piece de resistance of the sextet is Myrna Feintuch, director/choreographer of the parents' show and a hippie herself. She's divorced and doggedly devoted to her son Andy, who while he appreciates Mamma, has decided to find a college as far away from her as he can get. Myrna, whose nagging is a frequent pain in the backside to her cast, is a triumph of organization, and smartly lets out her steam while alone. Ms. Lopez makes Myrna the most charming of her both recognizable and fascinating gallery of moms, leading the show to a whirlwind musical coda that features excerpts of the musical solos of all six.

The conclusion of Class Mothers '68 in such a demonstrative manner does push the play into zany overdrive, yet is the unavoidable conclusion to a winning evening of entertainment peppered with nostalgia and thoughtfulness. Under Jeremy Dobrish's brisk and well-paced direction, the script never tires, and musical stager Thommie Walsh gets as much out of an eight-minute musical with one performer as I can possibly imagine.

Class Mothers '68
Written by Eric H. Weinberger
Directed by Jeremy Dobrish
Performed by Priscilla Lopez
Musical Staging by Thommie Walsh
Set Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Daniel Lawson
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Sound Design: Jill B. C. DuBoff
Hair Design: Bobby H. Grayson

Running Time: 80 minutes (no intermission)
Clurman Theatre at 410 West 42nd Street
11/25/02-2/09/03; opening 12/09 /02
. Wed - Sat at 8pm; Wed & Sat at 2pm; Sun at 3pm also Nov 25, 26, Dec 2, 9, 17, 30 at 8pm; Dec 10 at 7:30pm; Dec 29 at 7pm; Dec 5, 26 at 2pm no perfs Nov 28, Dec 8, 15, 25 no matinee perfs Dec 4, 11 --$45.

Reviewed by Brad Bradley based on December 7th performance.
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