Inola M. MCGuire reviews
New York Theatre Intensive’s production of
BETWEEN PRETTY PLACES
13th Street Repertory Company
50 West 13th Street, New York, NY
On Thursday, September 17th, 2015
The performance of the evening is “Between Pretty Places, A Musical Ghost Story” by Susan Merson, directed by John Hadden; starring Philip Callen, Julie Fitzpatrick, Jemma Kosanke, Ellen Parker, and Heather Lupton Rasche; dedicated to Teghan.
The performance begins with live music by the piano player. The audience sees Diane, the mother of Cherylynn and the grandmother of Kyla, when she enters the stage. She sits on the floor with her head on a stool and she falls asleep. In the meantime, her daughter in ghost form parades around on an elevated contraption. The granddaughter, Kyla enters and sees her grandmother on the floor. It is a premonition of some sort for Diane; she has to get over her grief for another real situation that is brewing along her path.
The death of Diane’s daughter by hanging two years earlier creates a vacuum in her heart, and she has to face her fears before it is too late. However, Diane’s granddaughter needs a home; for her father wants to shift his parental responsibility that leaves her in a quandary. Diane feels like a failure. She thinks she could have done a better job with her daughter, Cherylynn, as a mother. Cherylynn had a mind of her own; and she left her parental home at a tender age of 14. Her Waterloo was Gregory, Kyla’s father.
In the meantime, Diane’s husband, Lyle, enjoys the empty-nest atmosphere with his wife. He is obliged to make love to his wife anywhere or anytime in the comfort of their home. Things are about to change when Gregory decides to become a correction officer in a prison. Gregory’s caring for his daughter feels like a monkey on his back. He is passing his daughter, who represents a problem in his mind, off to her maternal grandparents. Lyle doesn’t want any part of fatherhood at this stage in his life. Life is good between him and Diane, and he wants to maintain his status. The audience sees both of them singing on stage and enjoying each other’s company.
The ghost of Cherylynn is still earth bound, and her daughter acknowledges her presence. Both Diane and Lyle try not to acknowledge their daughter’s presence. Diane wants a job. She goes to the library and she encounters home-wrecker Marge; and she shares her concerns with her concerning Kyla. Afterward, Marge meets Lyle and she informs him about Diane’s job-search endeavor. Lyle goes home and Diane tells him about her plans to become Kyla’s guardian. He’s furious and he leaves his home to defuse his frustration.
Low and behold, Lyle ends up at the bar where Madge, the Jezebel, decides to offer him the moon and the stars. A promise is the comfort to a fool! Both of them enjoy a dance together; and the audience sees him as he contemplates his next move. Diane faces the challenges of motherhood and being the matriarch of her family. Cherylynn’s earth-bound spirit, the ghost, wants to take her daughter with her, and Diane has to do her best to keep Kyla safe with love and compassion.
Diane advises Cherylynn’s ghost to leave Kyla alone, for she needs to go over to the beyond. Her lingering spirit needs to cross over from this realm. Each member of the family has its own lingering spirit. The audience witnesses three generations of women at the same place under the tree. Diane gets an opportunity to make things right the second time around. Lyle gets an opportunity to voice his fears to Diane; yet he gives his definitions seduction. He shows his granddaughter a brief act of kindness, yet Lyle wants to jump ship and takes Madge up on her offer for her supposedly empty-nest home.
The writer gets her message across to the audience because she takes a real-life experience and weaves it into a well-written play. In Lyle’s case, he is ready to abandon his granddaughter with the promise of a home without children with Madge. This is a tale to encourage young women to stay at home with their parents and get their education. We all have to recognize that liberation without preparation is a very dangerous thing. It is a performance that is worthy of seeing, and I surely recommend it to theatre goers and non-theatre goers.