Monday, March 19, 2007

Hip! Fragile! Plucky!

No way I'm making fun of this play. I wish I was in CA so I could go see it. I just got a laugh out of the descriptions. I also got a laugh that it was playing at the Moolelo Theater. I'm glad I got a laugh out of those things. Cause everything else about it just makes me want to cry. I really wish I could go see this.

I just put all the adjectives together. Hip, fragile, plucky. Determined, joyous. Coerced, reasonably happy. Haunted. Missing.


"The Adoption Project: Triad"
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through April 1
Mo'olelo Performing Arts at Centro Cultural de la Raza; 2125 Park Blvd., Balboa Park; $25; (619) 342-7395;

Emotions rule 'The Adoption Project'

By Anne Marie Welsh

March 19, 2007

'The Adoption Project: Triad” has all the earmarks of a Mo'olelo Performing Arts production: a socially relevant, emotionally fraught story; a script laced with humor and nonrealistic elements; a strong, deeply committed cast.

Staged in the wide-open spaces of the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park, the new play by Kimber Lee focuses on three women who form the primal triad of the title.

The adoptee is Aggie, a hip, thirty-something ad writer increasingly determined to find her birth mother.

The adoptive mother is Bernice, a fragile person, whose backstory includes many miscarriages followed by a privileged life devoted to Aggie; she and her husband joyously adopted the girl in a traditional legal process involving “closed” records.

The birth mother is Madeleine, a plucky Midwesterner coerced into giving up her baby when she was 19 and now a reasonably happy married woman haunted by that missing piece of her life.

Mo'olelo founder Seema Sueko directed the pitch-perfect cast – Jo Anne Glover as restless Aggie, Sandy Campbell as delicate Bernice, and Linda Libby as Madeleine.

Lee structures her play as a collage of voices with the three actors playing many other roles, some of them comic. Campbell, for instance, dons a bouffant blond wig and red power blazer to become Barbara Walters; these parody scenes about a reductive TV special on adoption inspire some of Lee's best writing. Libby plays a Marx Brothers-style judge and an Internet-savvy stoner guy pal of Aggie. And when Glover's not playing Aggie, she struts about as Bernice's husband.

Given the primal nature of so many emotions surrounding birth and adoption, Sueko wisely employed choreographer Erika Malone to create dance sequences to express unspoken feelings.

Malone's simple, gestural choreography teases out that unseen relationship between the birth mother and adoptive mother who – in this particular case, and most others – have never met one another.

Another dance sequence involves a diaphanous white dress with tendril-like arms that connect Bernice and her adopted daughter, Aggie, even as Madeleine “disappears” from the dress, leaving an empty space, a sort of question mark, between them. Sound designer Paul Peterson's well-chosen musical interludes underscore the movement without overwhelming it.

With the subject very much in the news these days because of the boom in Chinese and celebrity adoptions, “The Adoption Project” nonetheless roots itself in an earlier era when pregnant girls, especially in Catholic families, were exiled to homes for “unwed mothers” and babies were, as a matter of course, “given up” for adoption within days of birth.

The cruelty of that system, wrapped in coercive silence and shame, is one potent theme in Lee's script, and Libby movingly embodies the agony of so many young women up against a system that judged as selfish any wish to keep and raise a child outside of marriage. Social and moral conventions were protected, not the feelings of the mother.

Campbell, best known for her crystalline soprano in musical theater, displays an impressive range in her dramatic and comic roles here. And Glover, who's quickly become one of the city's most reliable and in-demand young actors, adds another sharply delineated portrayal to her credits. The three wring a great deal of feeling and perspective from the somewhat abstract characterizations in Lee's script.

This is a women's story, with the fathers – and possible siblings and half-siblings of adoptees – intentionally beyond its focus.

The presentational nature of the staging is a throwback to feminist work of the '70s and '80s: many monologues orbiting round or overlapping one another, slide projections and multilayered visual effects.

In keeping with Mo'olelo's social mission, “The Adoption Project: Triad” will serve as a conversation-starter. For those outside the “Triad,” the thoughtful piece brings home inevitable feelings of loss experienced by all three in what Lee so rightly names the “Triad.”

Perhaps more significantly, it's possible that uneasy adoptees may bring their adoptive families to the Centro, there to begin dialogue about finding the missing pieces that may upset everyone's equilibrium for a time, but can also make families feel whole again.

6 complaints from ingrates:

Heidi March 19, 2007 at 10:50 AM  

I've been reading your blog for the first time this morning. I had no idea there were so many Adoptee blogs. It's nice to know there are others out there like me.

Ungrateful Little Bastard March 19, 2007 at 11:21 PM  

It is nice, Country Mama. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company March 20, 2007 at 12:32 AM  

Hey there.... this is Seema from the Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego. Glad you saw the review of "The Adoption Project: Triad" and wish you were here to see it.

Keep on keeping on...

Ungrateful Little Bastard March 20, 2007 at 7:40 AM  

Seema! Come to NY with The Adoption Project!

Hip and fragile,

Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company March 20, 2007 at 4:00 PM  

hey there hip and fragile teresa...

set us up with producer in NY and we'll be there!!! :)

seema & kimber

Ungrateful Little Bastard March 21, 2007 at 1:06 AM  

Seema!! Kimber!! Important West Coast theater people posting on my blog!! I can't stand the joy!!

Oh I only wish I knew a producer....

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