During the entirety of ion theatre’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Little Flower of East Orange, Trina Kaplan never stands up. She’s either in a hospital bed or a wheelchair. But she stands tall as Therese Marie, the aged, dying mother of two caring but explosive grown children, Danny (Jeffrey Jones) and Justina (Catalina Maynard). By turns playful and warm, delusional and haunted, Kaplan’s “Terri” is the life force of Guirgis’ partly autobiographical work, directed by ion’s Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza (both perform as well). Little Flower, which closes on Dec. 8, is a sometimes-wrenching reminder of the bond between parent and child.
While the play is bloated with characters and subplots –Danny’s drugged-out Republican girlfriend (Melinda Miller), a cool-eyed detective (Durwood Murray) trying to learn Terri’s identity, a forlorn son (Paris) at his own ailing mother’s hospital bedside – the central relationship between Terri and Danny is complex, conflicted and wholly believable. Terri’s girlhood secret, and Danny’s awareness of it, is chilling.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat