Review: ‘Eleemosynary’

Award-winning playwright Lee Blessing ("Two Rooms," "A Walk in the Woods," "Chesapeake") has fashioned an intriguing journey through the psyches of three exceptional women whose lifelong interdependence is both their curse and their salvation. It is unfortunate the playwright's subtle premise is obliterated by Nancy Lincors' awkward staging and further undermined by her stilted, self-conscious portrayal of life-challenged Artie, daughter of self-proclaimed eccentric Dorothea (Linda Larson) and mother to intellectually driven teenager Echo (Kelly Norris). This work is a fragile pas de trois that requires an exceptionally intuitive ensemble rapport. Larson and Norris work hard to maintain some semblance of viability but are ultimately defeated by Lincors' inadequacies.

Award-winning playwright Lee Blessing (“Two Rooms,” “A Walk in the Woods,” “Chesapeake”) has fashioned an intriguing journey through the psyches of three exceptional women whose lifelong interdependence is both their curse and their salvation. It is unfortunate the playwright’s subtle premise is obliterated by Nancy Lincors’ awkward staging and further undermined by her stilted, self-conscious portrayal of life-challenged Artie, daughter of self-proclaimed eccentric Dorothea (Linda Larson) and mother to intellectually driven teenager Echo (Kelly Norris). This work is a fragile pas de trois that requires an exceptionally intuitive ensemble rapport. Larson and Norris work hard to maintain some semblance of viability but are ultimately defeated by Lincors’ inadequacies.

On the plus side, the production revolves around Larson’s truly memorable outing as a woman whose spiritual superiority was almost crushed, first by an uncaring family and later by an unfeeling husband. To protect her sanity, Dorothea has withdrawn into a world of pure imagination.

“Eccentricity saved my life,” she recalls. “It became my life.” Driven to accomplish something of importance, her obsessive oddities have completely alienated her from daughter Artie, a brilliant but emotionless woman who chooses to flee her mother and young daughter.

Dorothea finds her spiritual ally in granddaughter Echo, who embodies her mother’s brilliance and her grandmother’s obsessive need to excel at some level. Norris’ Echo actually glows with determination as she single-mindedly strives to be the U.S. spelling bee champion. This determination turns into a competitive fury that actually frightens her once she has vanquished her last foe by successfully spelling eleemosynary, a word that means charitable.

When her grandmother dies, Echo decides she and her mother must adopt eleemosynary as their standard for learning to move their lives forward as individuals and as a family.

The production’s less than acceptable staging is matched by a woefully inadequate set and lighting designs. Blessing’s work deserves better treatment … much better.

Eleemosynary

Bitter Truth Playhouse; 50 seats; $15 top

Production

A W.W.A. Prods. presentation of a play in two acts by Lee Blessing. Director, Nancy Lincors; sets, Lincors, Linda Larson; lights, Lincors, Carlton Crayton; sound, Crayton. Opened Sept. 22, 2000; reviewed Sept. 24, 2000; runs until Oct. 8. Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast

Dorothea - Linda Larson Echo - Kelly Norris Artie - Nancy Lincors
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