Francis Solomita’s autobiographical paean to his dying mother, while sweet and heartfelt, offers flat, predictable writing and acting that often is tepid.
The one-man show, written and performed by Solomita, chronicles his return to his hometown of Newton, Mass., for a final vigil at his mother’s bedside in the company of his father and nine brothers and sisters.
Solomita tells his family story in a series of flashbacks, which focus primarily on his immigrant mother’s central place in the family, as well as the trials and tribulations of growing up in a large brood.
In one poignant scene, Solomita describes his imaginary game, “Only Child,” in which he is showered with attention and affection from his parents, who in real life were fractured in their devotion to their numerous offspring.
Solomita’s mother, Nadia, was clearly an extraordinary woman, bearing and raising 10 children as she pursued a career as a teacher, all the while spreading her free-wheeling, free-thinking philosophy of child-rearing and education.
The swarm of brothers and sisters meanwhile, were fairly typical of a large family, with the older ones alternately taking care of and then beating up on the younger ones, as the family pecking order was established.
Solomita enacts many of the events of his upbringing, including the joys and frustrations of high school, the experimentation with drugs and rebelliousness and the painful search for self that everyone endures. Although he never seems to question the value of his warm, bustling family, his mother’s death makes Solomita cherish them even more.
While Solomita’s heart is in the right place, and the honesty of his telling is undeniable, the evening is really an encomium to his mother rather than a dramatic story. There is little conflict between the characters beyond normal adolescent rebellion or the predictable stresses and strains of a large family.
Perhaps audiences are too accustomed to the ravings of tormented families to be drawn into the simple story of ordinary people.
In truth, however, Solomita appears to have covered his family’s history with the gauze of fond remembrance, rounding off the sharper edges but also dulling the reality of these characters. One suspects there are deeper layers to this family that Solomita has only begun to plumb.