“I’m going to kill myself, Mama.”
Thelma doesn’t believe it at first, but her matter-of-fact daughter, Jessie, isn’t kidding. She wants to die. She plans to die, on this exact Saturday night. It’s inevitable and unstoppable.
Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ’night, Mother, onstage at ion theatre in Hillcrest, is an anguished, penetrating battle of wills between two women growing more and more desperate as each ominous minute after Jessie’s suicidal proclamation passes. Yolanda Franklin (as Jessie) and Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson (as Thelma) are entirely captivating in this one-act directed by ion’s Glenn Paris. In the tight confines of the theater’s black box space, you are immersed in Jessie’s overwhelming despondency (she has given up on life, whether her mother likes it or not) and in intimate proximity to Thelma’s fears and recriminations. But so deadly tense is the atmosphere created by Paris’ directorial hand and by Franklin’s and especially Thompson’s performances that you never know when to brace yourself for the shock of resolution.
’night, Mother is sad yet unignorable.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat