By Sharman Macdonald; Directed by John Keating
Produced by Fallen Angel Theatre Company
Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 5.8.16
The Clurman at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 5.4.16
Zoe Watkins, Aedin Moloney, and Barrie Kreinik in When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: Strong performances make this revival of a 1984 Scottish play exploring mother-daughter conflicts a powerful one.
The conflicts between a mother and daughter regarding sexuality are the focus of When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, a work that is highly relatable, and both humorous and touching.
The play opens with Fiona (Barrie Kreinik) and her mother (Aedin Moloney) sitting on the beach while her mother nags her about being in her thirties and not yet having a child or a husband, warning her that her clock is ticking and that menopause came early for her aunt. The mother's barrage of over-the-top intrusive questions and insults regarding her daughter's single status are both humorous and relatable, and several female audience members guffawed while nodding in recognition. "You do have a grandchild," Fiona reminds her mother with a cold look, reminding her of an unspoken truth from the past.
The play then jumps backward and shows Fiona growing up with her overly protective mother who shunned any discussion and expression of sexuality and her childhood friend Vari (Zoe Watkins) who pressured her to explore and discuss sexuality. Any discussion of sexuality, or sign that she might be developing her own sexual feelings, is met with harsh reprimands from her mother, who even looks at her daughter's growing breasts with trepidation. This fear towards sexuality seems to extend to her own life experience as her mother often laments on how unappealing sex is. Later, Vari whispers to Fiona that her mother couldn't convince her father to stay because she didn't like sex.
When Fiona is 15 her parents divorce and her mother soon enough finds herself a boyfriend, and surprisingly, for the first time in her life, begins to express her own sexual desires. Seeing her mother as a sexual being leads Fiona to call her mother a whore, flipping the same harsh standards her mother once pinned upon her. Soon Vari tells Fiona that her mother's wealthy boyfriend plans to take her mother to the Middle East, leaving Fiona to live with Vari until she finishes school. Fiona is so distraught at being abandoned by her own mother that she hatches a rather dense plan to get pregnant via the neighborhood Lothario Ewan (Colby Howell) who also provided Vari with her first sexual experience, in the hopes of forcing her mother to stay. (Their clumsy attempt at sex rather hilariously features Vari coaching them from the sideline.)
The strength of this production lies in the emotional power of the actors, especially in Aedin Moloney, who convincingly portrays a woman whose anxiety towards losing control causes her to follow every social more and tradition. Barrie Kreinik is also enthralling as Fiona, and Zoe Watkins is able to portray both a mischievous youth and a mother who has accepted the dullness and sacrifices of her existence.
A versatile set by Luke Hegel Cantrarella enables the characters to span time and locations with ease. The play's Celtic music, composed by Paddy Moloney of The Chieftans (Aedin Moloney's father) serves to emphasize the Scottish setting of the play and the Irish roots of those involved in the production, as well as play up the emotions of the characters. Macdonald's script also cleverly mixes humor into the drama, acknowledging that the awkwardness of adolescent sexuality and a child/teenager's interactions with their parents regarding sex can often be rather comical. The conversations and themes running through this production are ones that are surely familiar with many women, and this authenticity and relatability are what help to make it compelling from start to finish.
(When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout plays at Clurman Theater at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street, through May 8, 2016. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with an intermission. Remaining performances are Friday at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $46.25 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. For more information visit fallenangeltheatre.org.)
When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout is written by Sharman Macdonald and directed by John Keating. Set Design is by Luke Hegel Cantrarella. Lighting Design is by Jessica M Kasprisin. Sound Design is M. Florian Staab. Music Director is Paddy Moloney. Stage Manager is Lisa Suzanne Schwartz.
The cast is Aedin Moloney, Barrie Kreinik, Colby Howell, and Zoe Watkins.