By Judi Ann Mason; Directed by Denise Yvonne Dowse
Produced by Negro Ensemble Company
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 6.10.17
Theatre 80 St. Marks, 80 St. Marks Place
by Katharine Nedder on 6.5.17
L-R: Brenda Crawley, Edythe Jason (behind), Kristin Dodson, and Claudia McCoy in Daughters of the Mock. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
BOTTOM LINE: Daughters of the Mock opens the discussion for viewers to decide the true weight of family, culture, and curses.
Daughters of the Mock takes the stereotypical fairytale "curse" and turns it on its head. The play begins with the silent but endearing Maumau (Edythe Jason) tending to her garden and visiting with Amanita (Kristin Dodson), her doting granddaughter. Dodson lights up the stage with her bubbly yet fiery personality as Jason's silence and stealth creates an eerie mood. All seems well, if a bit off, until Amanita's sister Maneda (Claudia McCoy) returns home with a stillness and sadness about her that can't help but draw attention; this becomes more apparent as the girls bicker about whether or not Amanita should be married.
Strong and silent Oralia (Brenda Crawley), the girls' mother, joins in the conflict while Maumau sits secluded, but somehow all-knowing. That is until Amanita's friend Gail (Lynne Michelle), a sassy source of comic relief, speaks to her friend about the "gossip" surrounding her family. With impeccable timing and believable disdain for her friends' family, Gail reminds her that the men in her family have all mysteriously died young and that her grandmother is not only odd, but cursed. Amanita vehemently denies this and lightens the conversation, but as she watches Oralia and Maumau meander about their home, this conversation suddenly has weight.
As Gail's conviction is confirmed, the play takes on a more existential turn. The family dynamic shifts from tension to raw emotion as the women discuss past pain and their experience with grief, an undeniable anger and even more undeniable love for each other. The purported "curse" becomes more of a choice than a predestined doom, and emotionally raw Amanita must decide whether to take on this "curse" that holds her family together and tears others apart. As she makes her choice, all of the women silently struggle and remain precariously on the line of love and rage.
Though Daughters of the Mock seems to take place in the present, it gives the air of a past era which at times becomes confusing, bordering on distracting. However, Denise Yvonne Dowse's direction keeps the stage active, mirroring the emotional journey of these five captivating actresses. The women all have excellent chemistry and consistently create a relatable family dynamic onstage. Further creating this mood, Melody Beal's lighting design excellently matches the conflict onstage and at times gives a supernatural feel to conversation that is grounded in reality, helping the audience decide for themselves what a "curse" truly is.
Daughters of the Mock, a clear labor of love from everyone involved, is a fascinating view into family dynamics and how far the pain of the past and love of the family can extend. The Negro Ensemble Company consistently produces quality and timely theater by highly talented actors, and Daughters of the Mock is no exception.
(Daughters of the Mock plays at Theatre 80 St. Marks, 80 St. Marks Place, through June 10, 2017. The running time is 90 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7. Tickets are $25 ($20 student/senior) and are available at necinc.org.)
Daughters of the Mock is by Judi Ann Mason. Directed by Denise Yvonne Dowse. Set Design is by Patrice Andrew Davidson. Lighting Design is by Melody Beal. Sound Design is by Jacqui Anscombe. Costume Design is by Ali Turns.
The cast is Brenda Crawley, Kristin Dodson, Claudia McCoy, Lynne Michelle, and Edythe Jason.