Written by Dallas Bancroft
Adapted, Directed and Performed by Luella Wagner
I miss live theatre so much and Solofest was cut short this year. But this Streamfest was a stroke of genius by the good folks at my beloved Whitefire.
It’s a tough genre, the online play, and nowhere is better prepared for it than the Whitefire. They have been streaming shows for the past couple of years as an addition to the live performances they produce and sending it out for audiences all over the country and the world.
I was lucky enough to catch Luella Wagners solo show, “Bloom Where You Are Planted” in last year’s Solofest. The show was centered around her experiences teaching at a reservation in Montana and I absolutely loved it. So I was very happy to see that she had created a new show for the Whitefire Theatre’s Streamfest.
This time Luella performs a piece written by Dallas Bancroft and adapted by her for this unique streaming genre. The central character, Esther, the Italian mother of the teenager Rudy, stands in her Boston kitchen giving us a running monologue as the mother of a classic underachiever determined to stay in bed.
We enter their lives on the morning of Rudy’s SATs with Esther trying her best to keep him focused on what’s most important, getting up and her own magical life sequence – go to school, graduate, get a job, get a car, get a girlfriend, get married, have kids, go to Disney World. The perfect life. But after she finds a letter from a bartending school in her morning mail that Rudy sent away to, she loses it just a little, as she tries to convince Rudy to become an engineer, join the Army, build rollercoasters, hydroelectric plants… literally anything to get him out of the house, or at least her house and not become a bartender.
I must have had conversations something like this with my son about a hundred times, although I like to think I didn’t yell as much! Trying to fill the heads of our children with as much ambition as we can while not going crazy is a hard path to walk at times. Esther has the added pressure of her firstborn “Carlo” who ended up in prison, regardless of her efforts to help him forge a better path.
It’s a very funny piece and Luella is brilliant as this slightly wrung out Italian mother – pushy, loving, loud and in the end, victorious. Rudy is perfectly played by Brandon Loeser, mostly poutingly and from off stage, although he does turn up at the end and is hilarious.
I am pretty passionate about solo theatre, although Rudy’s role doesn’t make it exactly a solo show, Luella gets a pass since she is so wonderful! This play is funny, poignant and absolutely believable. A mother standing in her kitchen, yelling at her teenager to get up and get to school is seared into most mothers’ memories…especially those of us who have sons, although my daughter was almost as bad at getting up if I remember rightly. Luella is vivid in this role. Charmingly emotional, brutally honest and sweetly tender, the way only a mother can be whilst screaming….I loved it!!!
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