Sizing up a mother’s sacrifice
by Peter Filichia/The Star-Ledger
Tuesday February 24, 2009, 5:38 PM
You May Go Now. Where: Centenary Stage Company, 400 Jefferson St., Hackettstown. When: Through March 8. Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 2:30 and 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. How much: $17.50 matinees, $20 evening performances, except Saturdays, which are $25. Call (908) 979-0900 or visit centenarystageco.org
Grown daughters have been known to ask their mothers about sexual matters, but rarely as frankly as Betty questions Dottie in “You May Go Now.”
It happens in Bekah Brunstetter’s slyly fascinating play at Centenary Stage Company in Hackettstown. In the first dangerously hilarious scene, words and concepts that aren’t fit for polite company pour out of the young woman’s mouth. Dottie, who’s so prim and well-dressed that she makes June Cleaver look like Granny Clampett, is scandalized at Betty’s no-holes-barred talk. An audience, though, has no choice but to be convulsed.
But that’s what happens when you have a child, isn’t it? The day inevitably comes when the kid turns out to be a stranger you could never have envisioned. You may teach her what you want her to know, you can try to protect her from the world, and your efforts will be for naught. Betty is not unlike grass seeds that were sown under the cement sidewalk known as Dottie; she’s manage to crack through the seemingly impervious barrier, and there’s no stopping her now.
That’s hardly all that’s on Brunstetter’s mind. The second scene, a decades-earlier flashback, shows a very different Dottie, who’s busy at her typewriter writing a book. Enter her husband Robert, who wishes she’d give up these authorship ambitions and give him a child. If there’s any doubt that he’s serious about it, he’ll certainly convince Dottie by scene’s end that he’s desperate to become a parent. He causes Betty enough guilt to agree to motherhood.
“You May Go Now,” another premiere from CSC’s Women Playwrights Series, goes to great lengths to reinforce the notion that women often sublimate their own desires to please their mates. Dottie’s action turns out to be quite extreme, but it displays Brunstetter’s solid belief that wives place their own feelings a distant second in order to please their husbands.
There may be no better performer in the state to portray Dottie than Katrina Ferguson. The statuesque actress could pass for a former first lady, and has the right we-are-not-amused smile when Betty rebels. It’s a demanding role, but Ferguson is certainly up to it.
Quinn Warren excels in making Betty an unbridled innocent with a maniacal smile. When Betty meets the man of her dreams and invites him to dinner, Warren has the right moon-eyed and tongue-tied look before she delivers one of Brunstetter’s best lines: “It’s not that I don’t have many wonderful things to say. I just don’t know which one to say first.”
Phil, the stranger with whom Betty immediately falls in love, is deftly portrayed by Phil E. Eichinger. He’s a trendy vegetarian who’s somewhere between New Age and New Wave.
The character of Robert truly believes it’s his husbandly right and privilege to have his demands met, but trusts that his stating them quietly means that he’s automatically being reasonable. Steven L. Barron conveys that myopia with skill.
What emerges is a fiendishly clever social satire that nevertheless reinforces a wise message: Act out of guilt, and you won’t get the desired results. You may go to “You May Go Now” and have a thought-provoking experience.