Writer-performer Mary-Beth Mannings mother, Joan, was a loving, mercurial and idiosyncratic woman, whose rapid mood changes sometimes bewildered her impressionable young daughters. The youngest of 15 children from a blue-collar Irish-American family, Joan and her husband Ray, Mary-Beths father grew up, married and reared their family in a small Massachusetts town. Lively and well-crafted, Mannings show pays tribute to her mothers expansive spirit, chronicling their complex relationship, from her own kindergarten years when her parent loomed large and intimidating through adulthood, when, as a struggling actress in New York and L.A., she still spoke regularly to her mom about her career and her love life (a habit for which she sought psychiatric intervention). The play takes a more somber turn after Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer. Emerging from the shadow of a strong-willed, colorful and/or influential parent is common, in literature and in life; under Diana Castles direction, Mannings storytelling gifts, her timing and sense of irony for the most part create an entertaining and involving solo show that transcends the ordinary, though its 100-minute length, without intermission, is a strain. The preponderance of some anecdotes, especially in the productions final third, dilutes what we already anticipate as the storys poignant climax. Imagined Life Theatre, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru October 3. (866) 811-4111.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 18. Continues through Oct. 10, 2009