Review of "Ni Mi Madre": the scathing tribute of a son to his mother

Enter the playwright, shirtless and barefoot in a white skirt that skims the floor. Then the skirt becomes an off-the-shoulder dress, a...


Enter the playwright, shirtless and barefoot in a white skirt that skims the floor. Then the skirt becomes an off-the-shoulder dress, and he becomes his mother, in an exuberant dance.

It’s a simple transformation of the character, and totally theatrical. Suddenly there she is, feasting us on: Bete, an irresistibly charming, pragmatic, twice-divorced Brazilian immigrant who, it’s fair to guess, never won the Parent of the Year award.

There was, for example, the joke she made to her son Arturo when he was little. He would ring the doorbell and she would answer like he was a stranger, “I’m sorry, honey, but are you looking for your mother?” Then she would tell him to try next.

Arturo Luís Soria’s autobiographical solo show “Ni Mi Madre”, directed by Danilo Gambini at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in Manhattan, is remarkably unconventional. That’s not because it’s a queer narrative, though it is, or because its predominantly English dialogue often slides briefly, without translation, into Portuguese and Spanish, although it does, and works great that way.

What characterizes this piece as extraordinary in these times of instinctive antagonism is its ease with emotional contradiction and discomfort, its willingness to let filial affection persist despite a lucid recognition of the parental damage caused. (In the show, Soria thanks her mother “not only for living the bastard life I have on this stage, but also for enduring me telling it over and over again over the past decade and a half.”)

At 60 minutes, the production is not as tight as it could be; his changes in childhood from Bete and other ghostly realms are not always persuasive. But Soria, who appeared on Broadway in “Heritage», Is a charismatic actor. And it’s nice to come back to Rattlestick, where the indoor air moves in a gentle, reassuring breeze. (Masks and proof of vaccination compulsory.)

“Ni Mi Madre”, which means “neither my mother”, concerns the heritage across cultures and generations: what Bete passed on to Arturo, intentionally or not, and what Bete’s mother, who Bete says , never wanted to be a parent, was passed on to her.

But he’s also about a straight woman and the queer son she’s always stood up for in some ways – even though when he became bisexual she actually told him to take sides – trying to navigate. in a world in which straight men hold so much power and make so many rules.

When Bete, who unabashedly believes in the use of corporal punishment on children, recounts the time she beat Arturo over something he turned out he didn’t even do, she clings to it. to her reasoning: that her behavior would embarrass her in front of her. fiancé.

“I had three children and was about to marry my third husband,” she says. “What was this man going to think of me?”

In keeping with Bete’s philosophy that walls should be the color of “suggestive foods”, “Ni Mi Madre” has a papaya-orange ensemble (by Stephanie Osin Cohen). Its black-and-white patterned floor pays homage to the sidewalk of Ipanema, where she grew up, and the center of the painting in the background is that of the mother goddess Iemanjá.

Against this vivid backdrop, and under the saturated lighting of Krista Smith, Bete’s appearance is wisely almost unadorned: loose hair, little makeup, minimalist jewelry (the costume design is by Haydee Zelideth).

Soria gives a corresponding restraining performance, which is vital to safeguarding Bete’s humanity. As funny and over the top as it is, it never slips into caricature. And so we can feel for both her and her son.

“Ni Mi Madre” is a sore heart shrouded in laughter and a long white robe – an offering of understanding and forgiveness, presented on the altar of the bruised heritage.

Ni Mi Madre
Through September 19, in person and live, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Manhattan; 212-627-2556, rattlestick.org. Duration: 1 hour.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review of "Ni Mi Madre": the scathing tribute of a son to his mother
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