Review: ‘When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout…’

Glasgow-born playwright Sharman MacDonald's insightful chronicle of a hardened, 28-year relationship between a Scottish mother and daughter is undermined by an uneven four-member ensemble and less than forceful direction.

Glasgow-born playwright Sharman MacDonald’s insightful chronicle of a hardened, 28-year relationship between a Scottish mother and daughter is undermined by an uneven four-member ensemble and less than forceful direction.

One major problem lies in the difficulties the two key actresses — Carol Kane as the middle-aged divorcee, Morag, and Rachel Singer as her liberated but bitter 32-year-old daughter Fiona — have with their Scottish accents.

Kane’s efforts are measured and occasionally halting, rarely exhibiting her usual dramatic flair and exquisite comic timing. Singer constantly reverts back to the lower-class London accent she used so effectively in last year’s Odyssey production of Mike Leigh’s “Ecstacy” and insists on inserting angst-laden dramatic pauses into nearly every response.

Kane and Singer are simply too burdened by the language to achieve the conversational flow and emotional subtitles needed to communicate the psychological wounds mother and daughter have inflicted on each other over the years. Secondly, Director Elina deSantos fails to establish a true relationship and conversational rapport between the two.

Morag has invited a reluctant Fiona to spend a holiday weekend at the rocky beach on the east coast of Scotland where Fiona spent her youth. Morag is desperately attempting to establish a connection with her emotionally estranged offspring; Fiona feels compelled to brood over the events of her childhood from the age of 4 to the “event” at 15 that caused her and her mother to leave the community.

Iynt Antmiller’s multi-layered, rough-hewn, open platform setting certainly creates a proper environment for MacDonald’s constant time shifts, but deSantos fails to maintain any dramatic continuity. The scenes are reduced to static, isolated mood pieces rather than creating an emotional flowto Morag and Fiona’s final cathartic reconciliation.

As Fiona’s lifelong friend, Vari, Shannon Branham solves her problems with the accent by simply dropping it altogether whenever her character achieves any level of emotional excitement. During the flashbacks, Branham appears more self-conscious than spontaneous as the physically adventurous child who constantly prods Fiona to investigate her sexuality. She is much more effective as the grown woman who has rationalized herself into being satisfied with her catatonically mundane life.

By far the most effective portrayal in the production is turned in by Dylan Kussman as the callow but idealistic teenager who deflowers the young Fiona and insists on doing the right thing by her. The highpoint in the production is Ewan’s befuddled but passionate attempts at lovemaking as he is manipulated into doing “the deed” by a determined Fiona, who is being coached from the sidelines by Vari.

When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout...

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; 99 seats; $25 top


An Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presentation of a drama in two acts by Sharman MacDonald. Directed by Elina deSantos.


Morag - Carol Kane Fiona - Rachel Singer Vari - Shannon Branham Ewan - Dylan Kussman
Sets, Iynt Anmiller; lighting, Lisa D. Katz; sound, Ron Sossi; costumes, Mona Thalheimer. Opened and reviewed Feb. 13; runs until March 28. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

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