Review: ‘You Shall Give Me Grandsons’

You Shall Give Me Grandsons (The Marilyn Monroe Theatre; 99 seats; $ 10 top) The Lee Strasberg Center, the Goethe-Institut/German Cultural Center and Villa Aurora present "You Shall Give Me Grandsons," a play in two acts by Thomas Jonigk, translated by Penny Black and directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski. Set and costume design, Meike Urban; lighting design, Carlos Colunga; original music, Ulrich Suesse. Opened Jan. 10, 1997; reviewed Jan. 15; runs until Jan. 26. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Cast: Michael Learned (the Mother), Steven Sennett (the Son), Tom Paliferro (the Priest), Bjorn Johnson (Charles Camp), Arlene Golonka (Norma), Yutah Lorenz (Mary), Scott Crawford (the Father). Multi-Emmy Award-winner Michael Learned established herself as the quintessential nurturing American mom on the longrunning '70s TV series "The Waltons." Talk about contrast. Learned travels to the furthest, darkest regions of the maternal spectrum as the neo-fascist Mother whose single-minded need to have grandchildren is the central focus of this flamboyant but uninvolving expressionistic, contemporary farce by German playwright Thomas Jonigk. As translated by Penny Black and directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski, Jonigk's work makes ample use of heightened dialogue, absurdist physical action and sexuallycharged analogies and metaphors to express his "disdain for the status quo," skewering the concepts of motherhood, marriage, sexual convention, education and religious authority. Despite the competent work of a thoroughly committed ensemble, there is no coherence or focus to any of the playwright's passions. Jonigk's rambling objectives certainly are displayed but just don't carry beyond the stage. On the plus side, Learned literally devours the role of the overpoweringly decisive widow who has decided her admittedly homosexual son (Steven Sennett) will wed the teutonic-like Mary (Yutah Lorenz) and immediately start breeding sons. Learned effortlessly evolves from cooing flirtaciousness to towering rage to shrewd and conniving businesswoman as the need arises, never losing contact with her objective. For the most part, the rest of the cast is equally adept. As Mary's guardian, Norma, Arlene Golonka offers a hilarious portrayal of a sexually hyper animal who seems ready to devour whatever male is handy and willing. She also has her practical side, stating, "I only lie underneath in order to get on top." Sennett is appealing as the reluctant groom who would much rather indulge in his own concept of male bonding. As the oh-so-willing bride to be, Lorenz is a perfect, innocent foil to the machinations of all about her. The most scenery-chewing performances are turned in by Bjorn Johnson as the other son, the super heterosexual Charles Camp, and by Tom Paliferro as the lascivious, Nazi-wannabe priest. Totally out of place with the rest of the ensemble is Scott Crawford, whose laid-back, naturalistic approach to the role of the Father always lags about two beats behind. The set and costume designs of Meike Urban, complemented by Carlos Colunga's lights, offer a perfect environment to the onstage action. Julio Martinez

You Shall Give Me Grandsons (The Marilyn Monroe Theatre; 99 seats; $ 10 top) The Lee Strasberg Center, the Goethe-Institut/German Cultural Center and Villa Aurora present “You Shall Give Me Grandsons,” a play in two acts by Thomas Jonigk, translated by Penny Black and directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski. Set and costume design, Meike Urban; lighting design, Carlos Colunga; original music, Ulrich Suesse. Opened Jan. 10, 1997; reviewed Jan. 15; runs until Jan. 26. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Cast: Michael Learned (the Mother), Steven Sennett (the Son), Tom Paliferro (the Priest), Bjorn Johnson (Charles Camp), Arlene Golonka (Norma), Yutah Lorenz (Mary), Scott Crawford (the Father). Multi-Emmy Award-winner Michael Learned established herself as the quintessential nurturing American mom on the longrunning ’70s TV series “The Waltons.” Talk about contrast. Learned travels to the furthest, darkest regions of the maternal spectrum as the neo-fascist Mother whose single-minded need to have grandchildren is the central focus of this flamboyant but uninvolving expressionistic, contemporary farce by German playwright Thomas Jonigk. As translated by Penny Black and directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski, Jonigk’s work makes ample use of heightened dialogue, absurdist physical action and sexuallycharged analogies and metaphors to express his “disdain for the status quo,” skewering the concepts of motherhood, marriage, sexual convention, education and religious authority. Despite the competent work of a thoroughly committed ensemble, there is no coherence or focus to any of the playwright’s passions. Jonigk’s rambling objectives certainly are displayed but just don’t carry beyond the stage. On the plus side, Learned literally devours the role of the overpoweringly decisive widow who has decided her admittedly homosexual son (Steven Sennett) will wed the teutonic-like Mary (Yutah Lorenz) and immediately start breeding sons. Learned effortlessly evolves from cooing flirtaciousness to towering rage to shrewd and conniving businesswoman as the need arises, never losing contact with her objective. For the most part, the rest of the cast is equally adept. As Mary’s guardian, Norma, Arlene Golonka offers a hilarious portrayal of a sexually hyper animal who seems ready to devour whatever male is handy and willing. She also has her practical side, stating, “I only lie underneath in order to get on top.” Sennett is appealing as the reluctant groom who would much rather indulge in his own concept of male bonding. As the oh-so-willing bride to be, Lorenz is a perfect, innocent foil to the machinations of all about her. The most scenery-chewing performances are turned in by Bjorn Johnson as the other son, the super heterosexual Charles Camp, and by Tom Paliferro as the lascivious, Nazi-wannabe priest. Totally out of place with the rest of the ensemble is Scott Crawford, whose laid-back, naturalistic approach to the role of the Father always lags about two beats behind. The set and costume designs of Meike Urban, complemented by Carlos Colunga’s lights, offer a perfect environment to the onstage action. Julio Martinez

You Shall Give Me Grandsons

Opened Jan. 10, 1997. (The Marilyn Monroe Theatre.)

Production

The Lee Strasberg Center, the Goethe-Institut/German Cultural Center and Villa Aurora present "You Shall Give Me Grandsons," a play in two acts by Thomas Jonigk, translated by Penny Black and directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski. Set and costume design, Meike Urban.

Creative

Lighting design, Carlos Colunga; original music, Ulrich Suesse. Reviewed Jan. 15; runs until Jan. 26. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Cast

Cast: Michael Learned (the Mother), Steven Sennett (the Son), Tom Paliferro (the Priest), Bjorn Johnson (Charles Camp), Arlene Golonka (Norma), Yutah Lorenz (Mary), Scott Crawford (the Father).
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