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Theater Review: CityRep presents astounding performances in ' ‘night, Mother'

Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre-CityRep will present “ ‘night, Mother” by Marsha Norman through April 17 at CitySpace Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall. 

This production is ambitious, because “ ‘night, Mother” (a Pulitzer Prize Winner) tackles the devastating problem of suicide in our population. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in those younger than 24. Only car crashes exceed the number of deaths. In the state of Oklahoma, there are more than 700 suicides that have taken place so far this year. It is early spring and the number is 700! 

People who resort to suicide are depressed, yes, but they are also experiencing an utter lack of hope.  Hopelessness and worthlessness can become overwhelming especially when someone has little or no control in their lives. There are many triggers: Economic difficulties, poor health and the death of a loved one are some of the obvious ones, and when these things happen, someone who is depressed, or vulnerable to depression, can slip over the edge. Knowing someone who may be in trouble, is knowing someone who needs help and support but not judgment.

Questioning to determine the extent of their depression using persuasion rather than argument and referring them to someone who can treat them is important. One can be trained in using this approach called QPR, and just like CPR, it might help save a life.  This information becomes available after the performance due to the efforts of dramaturg Anna Holloway and her diligent intern, Whitney Hendricks.  The talk back that takes place is conducted by psychologist David Path. There are materials available in the lobby that include the number of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255) and people may visit

Because the subject of this show is so sensitive and accurate, it is imperative the director has a perfect understanding of the subject. It is essential that the actors have an absolute and true grasp of their characters. 

“ ‘night, Mother” has only two characters, a mother and a daughter. The intensity of the dialogue and events is daunting, so the need for excellent performance is paramount. Director Ruth Charnay accomplishes this excellence and perfection easily with two superior actresses. Pam Dougherty as mother, Thelma Cates, is wonderfully oblivious until it is too late. Kris Schinske as daughter, Jessie Cates, is incredibly believable as her tragic yet mundane life is revealed.

The supreme commitment required by Marsha Norman’s powerful script is met with genuine heartfelt empathy. The contributions by crew members and staff for CityRep to make “ ‘night, Mother” a real and natural environment to enhance the viewing experience is remarkable. The courage and talent of Ruth Charnay, Kris Schinske and Pam Dougherty are admirable and wonderful.

Given the statistics, chances are you know someone who needs you to see this show.

It is not an evening of pleasure, but an evening that might give you a lifetime of evenings. “ ‘night, Mother” plays through April 17 at the Civic Center. Curtain is 7:30 p.m., but come early because parking is difficult with the set-up of the Festival of the Arts. The CitySpace Theater has limited seating, so reserve a place by calling the CityRep Box Office at (405) 848-3761, or visit Bring a box of tissues, and waterproof mascara is recommended.

Elizabeth Hurd

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