The Puzzle Pieces Don’t Quite Match
My Mother Told Me – Southern Theater
Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw, with phillip andrew bennett low and DRP Dance
“What man can stand before God with so much blood on his hands?”
Mom was actually a lot harder on this show than I was. We both agreed it wasn’t a bad show, by any means. But we also both agreed it didn’t quite work in the way that the artists probably wanted it to work. My Mother Told Me is, after all, stuffed with returning favorites of both Mom’s and mine – storyteller phillip andrew bennett low, dancer/producer Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw, and choreographer Danielle Robinson-Prater of DRP Dance. (They were joined here by dancer Jill Murphy.) phillip once again told a compelling story, and Scrimshaw, Robinson-Prater, and Murphy all executed some lovely dance moves set to bluegrass and country music. But the two halves didn’t quite mesh together to make up a cohesive whole. Still I’m happy to see that the experiment of trying to mix dance and verbal storytelling continues. Because I think they’re getting closer to nailing it.
“Like a good soldier, he sued for peace.”
Mom said, “It’s like they were telling a story for a while and then all of sudden, time for a little dance. Then back to the story. And so on. Sometimes the story would go on for so long, you’d almost forget there were dancers that were going to take the stage. And sometimes the dance continued for so long, you’d nearly forget there was a larger story being told, to which we would return.” The balance is devilishly tricky. Personally, I think this story and these dances are a better fit for each other than “The Dance of the Whiskey Faerie” of a couple of Fringes ago. That may be because, however lighthearted a dancer Scrimshaw may be, the grace in her moves seems to demand subject matter with a little more gravity (no pun intended). The dancing is seriously impressive, so a story with a little heft (as well as some humor) is in order. That’s what they’ve got this time around.
“It’s the way of mothers to find things out.”
A young man leaves his mother in search of adventure. He completely (and comically) misinterprets his mother’s advice on how to conduct himself, and has no clue how to interact with normal people, but he somehow stumbles into good fortune. He helps out a damsel in distress but eventually leaves her the same way he left his mother. It’s way of men bent on finding glory to leave a trail of brokenhearted people behind them.
“I never saw his body. Never saw his face again, which shouldn’t bother me. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t.”
Mom says she would willingly listen to phillip tell a story any time, so that was the part of the show that worked the best for her. She didn’t feel the dance was as connected to the story as I did. For me, it was as if the dance were almost the subtext to the story, the emotional underpinning that couldn’t be put into words. Some things were literal, like the mother or the lover mourning the departing soldier, solos by Robinson-Prater and Scrimshaw that were both lovely to watch and emotionally resonant. Other things were more symbolic or metaphorical, such as the trio of dancers moving to Dolly Parton’s song “Little Sparrow” in the aftermath of the bird massacre; or the dancing duo that seemed to personify the man and his horse, lost in the snow of the mountains.
“The son of the widow of the lonely mountain.”
If you like a little story, and you like a little dance, and you’re not all that particular whether they play well together, this is some fine storytelling and some fine dancing. You can enjoy each of them for what they are, and look forward to the next time Scrimshaw tries to mate verbal and physical storytelling in a Fringe show. Because she’s getting really, really close to the perfect mix. And she certainly has surrounded herself with accomplished collaborators to keep trying to make it work.
3-1/2 stars, Highly Recommended
NEXT PERFORMANCE – Saturday 8/7 at 2:30pm
(Then Wednesday 8/11 at 10pm, Thursday 8/12 at 5:30pm, and Saturday 8/14 at 7pm)
Fringe show #7 – Friday, 8/6 8:30pm