This was a brisk, mildly diverting new play reading in three acts presented by Maryland Theatre Ensemble. The structure lent itself to elliptical story-telling as it is comprised of three monologues surrounding one inheritance. We hear from the woman who inherited the property, the woman who is the caretaker (and was the caregiver for the deceased), and from a female relative currently squatting in the root cellar.
. . . kudos to Maryland Ensemble Theatre for giving young playwrights a space to develop their works.
Each vignette is a series of impressions of how each character got to where they are, and what they see from this change in all of their lives, however obliquely. Clementine (Laura Stark) is 55ish and from New Jersey. She is blue-collar and has worked hard all her life. She has also been enamored of her aunt Mariah, whom she met once as a child (at a funeral), and has fantasized about stepping into her southern Virginia life. Unfortunately, most of her fantasies were lifted directly from “Gone With The Wind.”
Puddles (Julie Herer) is in her 60s and has been the caretaker for the property and the caregiver to Miss Mariah, who in her later years suffered from dementia and is the heiress of a chicken empire. It’s Miss Mariah’s house that Clementine inherits. In the will, she has been left a five-year, monthly stipend for her services, whether they are or not they are performed.
Mariah Lee Lee (a very affecting Amber George) is the squatting granddaughter of Miss Mariah. She is bitter, young, and has a very jaded outlook on life. For some reason, her line of the family appears to have been disinherited. Mariah Lee Lee just aims to drive Clementine out so she can live in the house, continue to let her meth-cooking female cousins live in the old chicken shed, and sell off the house contents through Ebay, which is how she makes a living.
The story borrows from all sort of sources —”Gone With the Wind,” shades of “Crimes of the Heart,” Faulkner, and Flannery O’Conner. Its snarky tone mocks all the characters as well as a capitalist-centric world that keeps people in poverty and in their place. Themes include class, family disfunction (and how family fails one), decay, the loss of hope, north-south divides, etc. — all in 20 minutes.
The piece is written by Frederick playwright, Lydia Hadfield. The most interesting and, in some ways, least stereotypical character is also the one closest in age to the playwright. Mariah Lee Lee is smart and observant, and her longing for a caring family is palpable. She is a fascinating character and I would have liked to learn more about her.
Part of Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s Plays in Progress, Festival of New Works, this is the second year that one of Ms. Hadfield’s plays have been included.
This has the germ of a good idea that needs further developing. Kudos to Maryland Ensemble Theatre for giving young playwrights a space to develop their works.
Running Time: Twenty minutes.
Show Advisory: Language, drug use noted.
“Inheritance” streamed on June 26 at 8:00 p.m. on Facebook as part of the Festival of New Works. For more information, click here.