Audio Podcast at ITUNES
Narrated by Joshua Volkers
Mortar Theatre presents
At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
Written by Jayme McGhan
Directed by Jason Boat
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru June 19th
Running Time: Two hours and 5 minutes includes an intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
The Disciples steal drugs, sell guns and kill people. Bones thrives as a Disciple. Delia applies to be a Disciple. Freely wants to organize the Disciples. But it’s not up to them, it’s whatever Mother says! Mortar Theatre presents the world premiere of MOTHER BEAR. Coyote Pass is a trucker’s rest stop in Utah. Truckers can park, shower and eat but only if they are a Disciple. The cult-like gang are road terrorists. Their brotherhood code assures protection and regulation. As the ringleader of the highway renegades, Mother governs as a legendary hellion. He is untouchable! After a heist, he murders all the witnesses and buries their bodies in the desert. Bones kisses his ass. Delia probes his conscience. Freely blackmails his business. Everybody’s itinerary is mapped out until there is a sharp curve followed by an unexpected turn bypassing the regular route. Mother Trucker! Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear and the roadkill is piling up. MOTHER BEAR is a fast-moving semi comedy and big wheeling thriller.
Playwright Jayme McGhan pens an intriguing modern day western. Instead of horses, it’s trucks. Instead of Miss Kitty pouring shots at the saloon, it’s Vera flipping a short stack at the diner. Instead of guns… wait it’s still guns and some knives! The wild wild west is marshaled by the bad guys. Or are they good guys? McGhan keeps it riveting with the imaginary black hat-white hat switcharoo. Director Jason Boat paces it tight for escalating intrigue. Fear permeates the stage. Even just the threat of violence keeps a flashlight scene gripping. The actual fight scenes, choreographed by Elizabeth Styles, are bloody vicious. It’s so authentic that it’s hard to watch without feeling guilty for not intervening.
Authentic is the descriptor! The diner set designed by Edward Matthew Walter is intricately detailed in believability. Shelves are stocked with trucker impulse buys like dashboard hula dancers, Penthouse magazines and Jesus candles. The walls are discolored shabby. The floor is worn mismatched formica. Costume designer Catherine Tantillo dresses the cast in teamster finery. Scuffed boots, ragged t-shirts and the enviable Disciple leather vests perfect the look of the seasoned drivers. Meanwhile, the new guy’s outfit looks like a recent arrival from Truckers R Us catalogue. The costume looks like a costume adding to Brian Plocharczyk’s (Freely) overall persona.
Plocharczyk gives a multi-dimensional, transformational performance. He starts out cocky, shifts into goofy, idles in conniving and backs into poignant. His range of emotion is captivating. Jim Farrell (Mother) drawls threats veiled in playfulness. Farrell is hilarious as the evangelizing mobster. When his sweet spot is revealed, he surprisingly charms. Maria Enriquez (Delia) plays it zealous and sassy as the mama bear. Enriquez confidently slams Dustin Whitehead (Bones) until he goes from dolt to beast. Their fight scene is disturbingly intense. Whitehead is scary great! Rounding out the talented cast, a cantankerous but warm-hearted J. Kingsford Goode (Vera) is a hoot with no-nonsense one liners.
MOTHER BEAR hauls a long con. The engaging ride twists into a jackknife that overturns the rig. Or does it? This excursion had me guessing the destination right up to the ending. Consider MOTHER BEAR in the no passing zone and let yourself get a ticket.
My good buddies on the journey describe the show as… Jen: ‘murder, intrigue & pie’ and Tom: ‘trucker pulp fiction.’