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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Two outstanding reasons to see Mia McCullough's two-hander Taking Care at the Little Victory Theatre are Maria Gobetti as Ma and Tim Sullens as her schizophrenic son Benny. They've lived together for all of Benny's 45 years in a small Chicago apartment in an acerbic melange of mutual dependence and rage. It's a realistic situation that brings the term "kitchen sink drama" to mind.
McCullough's strength is as close observer of the everyday details of these lives. However, the revelations that would give the play dramatic peaks and questions are missed. The play feels more anecdotal than dramatic, like watching the day-to-day experiences of lives that aren't going anyplace but down.
The play, which covers a seven-year span, has a host of unseen characters: Benny's two sisters who care for their relatives at a distance with computer-ordered groceries. . . Ma's bridge-playing buddy Lois who won't come over because Benny makes her nervous, the grocery-store owner who has known Benny all his life but won't sell groceries to him without Ma. . . and, dimly glimpsed, the hospital orderly who helps Ma after she falls and breaks a leg.
It's Ma's leg break that changes the dynamic. At 80 she not only doesn't bounce back but she deteriorates. Her symptoms, though never diagnosed, seem more like dementia than Altzheimers. It's in her moments of hallucinating that she describes violent scenes from her past as a young wife and mother and we see what a monster she was to her children.
Benny's character is revealed more slyly. He knows a lot of the answers on Jeopardy. When his mother tells him to make a wish on his birthday candle, he flies into the kind of rage that only someone with impossible wishes knows. The information about Benny reveals him and his sad life well but there's very little depth written into Ma's role. Though shemay not be an interesting character to spend time with, Maria Gobetti is. She brings irresistible warmth and power to her characterization. Sullens is brilliant as Benny, with the shouting voice, repetitive body movements, repressed rage and rare welcome smiles of a fully-rounded character. Hopefully we'll see these two splendid actors in a play that gives them more scope. Director Carri Sullens is in tune with the play's patterns. She brings out the characters' passions and faithfully interprets Taking Care's realism.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
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