The Kids Are All Right

But oh, so very boring

Which is what I wanted about halfway through this production at the Empire Theater. Great choice for a play, but poor execution. This is a two-character play, and both actresses must rigorously squeeze into the crawlspaces of their characters' souls. It's the spaces between the words and the lines that carry much of the weight in 'Night Mother. Unfortunately, Cathy Petz's Jessie is too young, too vibrant and talks way too fast for me to feel the cumulative weight of the 35 or 40 years of failed promise and shattered dreams her character is supposed to have endured. Joyce Eriksen's Thelma is very good, but Jessie's lack of levels subverts any connection. Director Todd Kulcyk's brisk pacing runs over and through some of the more intense moments. I appreciate his decision not to turn this into a melodramatic soup hysterically seasoned with the whines and sobs of two women in pain. But there's more of a play here than Kulcyk's pedal-to-the-metal pacing allows the audience to experience.

As flawed as this production is, 'Night Motheris a wonderful play, one that deserves to be seen. The irony is that I saw it two days before I attended The Wednesday Night Save-the-World Society. Guess which show has a house full of hootin' and hollerin' people? Guess which show had four people in the house? Fuck saving the world on Wednesday nights; if you care about saving local theater on any night, get thee to the Empire and see how plays are really written.

The Wednesday Night Save-the-World Society at Chance Theater, 5576 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. Through June 20. $13-$15; 'Night Mother at Empire Theater, 200 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. Through June 13. $10-$12.

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