When Mary (Cheryl David), the central figure in playwright James Sherman’s genial character portrait of three generations of women in a Jewish American family, vows that she won’t treat her daughter the same way her mother treated her, you know one thing’s for certain: Mary is going to turn into her mother before the show’s over. As a girl, Mary is browbeaten and intimidated by her imperious, pragmatic mother, Bessie (Nan Tepper), whose harshness is a clear product of the difficult life she has had to endure. As an adult, Mary dotes on her own daughter, Deborah (Robyn Cohen), a more liberated child who nevertheless grows up to have a rocky marriage. Sherman’s drama, which consists of scattershot vignettes that take us briskly through the years, sometimes seems pickled in sentimentality. One might wish that director Howard Teichman’s intimate but haltingly paced production boasted more psychological depth, but that is as much the flaw of Sherman’s glib script, which is top-heavy with too-easily-resolved situations. David cuts an unexpectedly tragic figure as the daughter who does exactly what her mother wants but winds up living vicariously through her own child. However, the show’s star turn is Tepper’s fierce matriarch, a performance as sympathetic as it is terrifying.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: May 1. Continues through June 1, 2008

LA Weekly