You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents’ Divorce

The Civilians are a mighty smart company, and "You Better Sit Down: Tales from My Parents' Divorce" is indicative of the clever things they do.

Mary Anne - Caitlin Miller
Janet - Robbie Collier Sublett
Beverly - Jennifer R. Morris
John, Frinde - Matthew Maher

The Civilians are a mighty smart company, and “You Better Sit Down: Tales from My Parents’ Divorce” is indicative of the clever things they do. This unconventional show only runs an hour and is performed on a bare stage by four members of the collective who sit in chairs and talk directly to the audience. Speaking in character as their own parents, the thesps deliver verbatim testimony excavated from personal interviews — highly sensitive stuff that should explain a lot about the boomer generation to their children. Despite the minimal stagecraft, this is riveting confessional theater.

Helmer Anne Kauffman and her co-authors in this collective endeavor have taken care to give their plotless piece a bit of structure. Specifically, the parental recollections are delivered chronologically on thematic issues (projected graphically behind their backs) like: “How they met,” “How they decided to get married,” and “How they broke up.”

Caitlin Miller speaks for her mother, Mary Anne, and Jennifer R. Morris for her mother, Beverly. Rather bravely of him, Robbie Collier Sublett assumes the role of his mother, Janet (his father would have no part of this project), and Matthew Maher pulls off the neat feat of representing both of his divorced parents, John and Frinde.

The most surprising thing about these confessions is their candor. More than one parent cops to a secret affair. One wife reveals that her husband was a criminal. And in another remarkably frank moment, the irrepressible Beverly admits to her daughter that, “It’s all about me,” and allows as how her children had to fend for themselves.

These revelations are both funny and sad, and it’s impossible not to wonder how these grown-up children are taking the news. As one mother succinctly puts it: “I hope this doesn’t send you to the psychiatrist.”

The reactions of the children to their parents’ frank and sometimes shocking disclosures are the unwritten part of the play that we don’t get to see — and can only imagine. It does seem, though, as if the young interlocutors got more than they bargained for.

Of rather more interest to a general audience is the group portrait of a generation that emerges from these individual case sketches. The parents may differ from one another in significant ways, from religion to educational background. But at heart, they are all baby boomers who came of age during the 1960s, and in an important way, that shared history still defines them.

“You have to understand that era,” Frinde impresses on her son, Matthew. They found sexual freedom, did some drugs, and traveled abroad during the 60s, to be sure, but they were also politically engaged. They refer to themselves as “socialists,” “revolutionaries,” and “the new generation.” They worked for Bobby Kennedy, picketed in support of Cesar Chavez, signed petitions for the Berrigan Brothers — and if their kids don’t know what that was all about, they should learn.

“You have to understand,” one mother says, “we thought we could transform American society.”

When Miller, Sublett, Morris, and Maher signed up for this project, they probably hoped for insights into their parents’ marriages, as well as their divorces. Well, they got that — and a lot more besides.

You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents' Divorce

Flea Theater; 74 seats; $35 top

Production: A presentation by the Flea Theater and the Civilians of a play in one act conceived by Jennifer R. Morris and written by Morris, Anne Kauffman, Matthew Maher, Caitlin Miller, Janice Paran, and Robbie Collier Sublett. Directed by Kauffman.

Creative: Set, Mimi Lien; costumes, Sarah Beers; lighting, Ben Stanton; sound, Leah Gelpe; projections, Caite Hevner; production stage manager, Megan Schwarz Dickert. Opened April 12, 2012. Reviewed April 10. Running time: ONE HOUR.

Cast: Mary Anne - Caitlin Miller
Janet - Robbie Collier Sublett
Beverly - Jennifer R. Morris
John, Frinde - Matthew Maher

More Legit

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content