This weekend the play “Mother Hicks,” directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Holly Blumner, opened as part of the Theater Film and Media Studies (TFMS) Department’s 2010-2011 Theater Season.
The play takes place in 1935 in Ware, Illinois, when the country is suffering the effects of the Great Depression. The play centers around the characters Tuck (junior Chris Murk), Girl (first-year Katie Henry), Mother Hicks (junior Briana Manente) and their struggles as outsiders.
Tuck is both deaf and mute, yet through Blumner’s use of sign language and the interpretation of other characters, Tuck narrates the play. Tuck uses only sign language and a wide array of facial expressions to communicate throughout the play. Chris Murk as Tuck signs so beautifully that it is shocking to learn that he did not know sign language before this play. He expresses himself so well that the audience has to simply look at his face to tell what he is thinking.
The two female leads, Katie Henry and Briana Manete are no less impressive with their speaking roles. In fact, the two female leads really bring their characters to life through their use of dialect. Henry’s ‘Girl’ is such an Illinois tomboy that when she is on stage the audience is completely enraptured by her. Henry could not have been better cast to play such a character. She lends so much spunk and childlike disobedience to the character, that you nearly forget she is a first-year in college and not a young girl.
Manete’s ‘Mother Hicks’ is also enrapturing to watch. Accusations of being a witch have isolated Mother Hicks from the rest of the community and Manente’s portrayal uses this forced isolation to create a gruff, independent, yet pitiful character.
Like Henry’s portrayal of Girl, Manete brings her character to life so wonderfully that when she steps off the stage as herself you half wonder how she will receive you.
Overall the play was wonderfully done. All of the actors were at the top of their game, the use of sign language was interesting and dynamic, and the costumes and props were wonderfully authentic.
The only point of contention was the way the stage was designed. Its diamond pattern meant that often characters would stand where only half of the audience could see them. For a majority of the play this was not a problem, but for some scenes one had to guess what was occurring since it was impossible to see.
Tickets for Mother Hicks can be reserved by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at (240)-895-4243.