"Alexa's Necklace," an examination of how one mother copes with the grief of losing a daughter, is getting its world premiere in the amphitheater at the George Washington Masonic Memorial this week and next.
The play is by Paula Alprin, who is the artistic director of the production company Natural Theatricals. She is also the author of a piece she called "a multi-genre performance art creation" titled " Flying Lessons" that played in the same space two years ago.
"Alexa's Necklace" is a much more traditional piece of work, but still exhibits a unique take on its subject. The workings of the mind of an otherwise rational woman under the stress of grief is shown through her hallucinations as well as through her relationship with her friends and family. They have a variety of reactions to her inability to move on after
what some might consider a suitable period of mourning.
Karen Doubeck plays the woman incapacitated by heartache with a fine sense of subtlety. It is a role that could quickly become tiresome, and clearly many of the people in the character's world have tired of her behavior. But Doubeck makes the behavior, and the sorrow underlining it, palpable.
THE WOMAN IS UNABLE to let go even though she is quite aware that her behavior is causing her family and herself even more pain. She's simply not able to control it, even when her husband gives up on her.
She has hallucinations where she has encounters with a younger and an older version of one daughter (Molly Bennett and Aimée Meher-Homji) as well as a strange appearance of the other daughter, this one played with an energetic otherworldliness by Jennifer Berg costumed in a duplicate of Judy Garland's garb from "The Wizard of Oz." All three actresses put in solid performances, most notably Bennett, an eighth grader making her professional Northern Virginia debut.
The mother not only interacts with her daughters, but with her estranged husband who can no longer cope with her behavior, her best friend who is close to giving up as well, and her sister whom she blames for the accident that cost her daughter's life.
Alprin not only wrote the script, she plays that sister. As seen through the troubled mind of the mother, the sister is one of the more bizarre characters in the play and she is played by Alprin herself with a sense of zest for the illogic of the non-sequiturs she spouts. This is a woman, after all, which the mother perceives as walking around in a Statue of Liberty headdress.
The play is the third and last of this summer's season for Natural Theatricals, which marks their first season as the professional theater company in residence at the George Washington Masonic Memorial on the hill above the King Street Metro station. It is a lovely facility and the company is beginning to learn how to use its unusual shape to present their plays. Let us hope for a full season next summer with even better productions.
Brad Hathaway has covered theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.