Arts & Leisure

“Things” explores love, family at WCP

“THINGS My Mother Told Me” at the Westminster Community Playhouse (WCP photo).

By Thom deMartino

Looking back, what were the lessons from your mother that stuck with you? Look both ways before crossing the street? Don’t talk to strangers? Always buy a new toilet seat for your new apartment?

Or is the real legacy and lessons of our parents inborn, reflected in us — despite all denials to the contrary?

In “Things My Mother Taught Me,” now playing at the Westminister Community Playhouse, Olivia (Jaylyn Kahle) and Gabe (Jason Cook) have taken the next big step in their relationship — moving in together. Transitioning from New York to Chicago, the couple are contending with the stress of the move, combined with their brand-new chair that’s wedged in the doorway of there new abode, as well as their new landlady Maxine (Jacky Lex), who’s not particularly helpful in aiding the pair moving in (and pretends to speak in broken English when asked a question she doesn’t want to answer.)

But Gabe has more up his sleeve than just the move: he’s planning to ask “Liv” to marry him this very weekend, and hoping to create the perfect engagement moment, has invited both sets of the couple’s parents to join them in Chicago at the new apartment — unbeknownst to his would-be fiancee. What could go wrong?

Beginning with the arrival of his own parents Lydia (Maria O’Connor) and Wyatt (Greg Stokes), the plan already begins going off the rails. His doting but neurotic mother begins an obsessive cleaning regimen, noting how her own mother taught her the importance to always thoroughly clean the top of the fridge in a new apartment… and espousing other seeming trivialities that are beginning to grate on the already wound-up Olivia’s nerves.

The arrival of her own parents, the emotionally-reserved Karen (Kati Moore) and jovial Carter (Dan Henry) heightens the tension: the exasperated Olivia butts heads with her detail-oriented and nitpicking mother, and the genial Gabe tries to pacify his manically-cleaning mom, while the pair of bemused fathers bond (despite the mortification of their children.)

Will this cacophonous clashing of generations strain familial relations to the point of breaking, or will the couple discover that what they may resent in their parents is really within themselves?

“Things My Mother Taught Me” is an auspicious beginning to the fledgling 2017-2018 season at the Westminister Community Playhouse: a witty and lighthearted look at relationships, familial and otherwise. Olivia seems high-strung at first, until the audience gains insight into her personality at the arrival of her mother and her overbearing influence: Cook’s gentle Gabe, with his relationship to his adoring and protective mom and his chipper dad, charms the audience with his good intentions gone awry. Both sets of parents shine as well, with the mothers particularly illustrating the different dynamics of familial relationships: how they affect later generations, and how they themselves were influenced by their predecessors. All the actors interactions feel genuine — if not always warm, then certainly true.

“Things My Mother Taught Me” is a fun exploration of relationships, that in the end, gives credence to the axiom “love is all you need.” This show is certainly one to love.

“Things My Mother Taught Me,”Jaylyn Kahle, Jason Cook and Maria O’Connor star in this comedic take on family, love, and our emotional inheritance from those who have come before. Playing through Aug. 6 at the Westminister Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St, Westminster, CA 92683: ticketing information available online at http://www.wctstage.org, or call 714-893-8626. 

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