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Main Street Theater Presents Memory House

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If you’re 20 or older and have ever been a teenager on the verge of adulthood, you probably recall the confusion of trying to make sense of your position in life and whatever that coming of age business means, suggests, or creates/destroys. If you were fortunate enough to have parents who cared enough to ask you tough questions and spin you round and round, blindfolded, till you were too dizzy to know which way was eastwest or northsouth, you can probably recall a fight or two or eleven raised to the ninth power. I know, between my mother and me, unfinished homework was always a favored topic of debate. (I thank my lucky shoelaces that the gavel always (almost) fell in her favor).

Main Street Theater is bringing to stage that great parent/adolescent tradition of bickering back and forth about homework and life questions in their production of Memory House, January 17-February 10. Memory House, a two woman act written by Kathleen Tolan, swings back the curtain on a mother/daughter conversation one turbulent News Year’s Eve night. Katia (played by Joanna Hubbard), a high school senior living in Manhattan, New York, is busy finding mediocre excuses for procrastinating an essay that is part of a college application, due to be in the mailbox by midnight. Katia’s mother, Maggie (Rebecca Greene Udden), pesters, lectures, and drags-on to her daughter about the importance of finishing the essay on time while  she occupies herself baking a pie. Of course Katia is quick to huff and puff back a polluted jet-stream of insults, criticizing Maggie’s failed marriage with her father, and her mother’s premature retirement from dancing, which resulted in the water chestnut life she settled for. Katia’s fervid, verbal assault on her mother eventually carries the two into what one might refer to as a no-man’s land subject of conversation. One of those conversations that one cares to swiftly tuck away into the “lets save that for another day” titanium safe; in Katia and Maggies case, that conversation is Katia’s adoption.

Unable to have children of their own, Maggie and Katia’s father decided to adopt a child from Russia, that child being Katia. While Katia’s father left Maggie when Katia was barely wobbling around on plump, shaky legs, both mother and father remained loving and present in their adopted daughter’s life. Katia’s Russian heritage and situation as an adopted child has thus never demanded heart or mind of the soon to be high school graduate. But in the process of applying for college and writing an essay detailing her short life for said application, Katia’s Russian origin and loose ties to her native land suddenly become an existential whirlpool, drowning the young woman in questions of national, familial, and personal identity. Maggie must not only keep her head above the aquatic vortex to answer Katia’s tender inquiries, she must also face the looming reality of her beloved daughter leaving home to become an adult.

Memory House offers a pleasant story of household conflict and resolution for all audiences. Katia and Maggie must confront some exceptional issues (Katia’s familial and national identity) in a commonplace context (Katia preparing to leave for college), but we have all lamented our terrors to a loved one, who in return shouts back their fears as the two of you attempt to breaststroke against the same dense current.

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