“Love in the Title”… It’s Complicated
by Warren Francke, The Reader
"...a thought-provoking performance by three impressive performers."
One reviewer dubbed the story line of Hugh Leonard’s Irish play, “Love in the Title,” a “muddle.” When you consider the concept you might be tempted to agree. But not so fast.
Sure, it’s a bit challenging to sort out the relationship between Katie, who “comes to us from the present” and is older than Cat, her grandmother who comes to us from 1932 at age 20. Then there’s Triona, Kate’s mother, who arrives in the same Irish meadow from 1964 at age 30. Don’t think “muddle” yet.
Instead, imagine yourself in Katie’s position, encountering your grandma as a 20-year-old and your mother as a 30-year-old: the rambunctious Cat and a skeptical mom, with you judging them and them judging you. And you armed with knowledge of what the future holds for the two of them.
Put simply in that critic’s word, it’s a very thought-provoking muddle. Spunky young Grandma Cat is outraged to learn from her more worldly granddaughter that the sexual norms that once burdened her teen years are no longer taboo. The more buttoned-down Triona disapproves of both her mother’s youthful desires and her daughter’s failure to marry.
Fortunately, for both playgoers and director Cathy Kurz, the Brigit Saint Brigit cast is fascinating with Delaney Driscoll, one of Omaha’s most accomplished talents, as Katie (in the present) and Jodie Vaccaro, another well-seasoned actor, as her mother. Because both have been admired in many roles, my fascination was especially inspired by Evelyn Hill as the highly animated Cat, who seems more a teenager in her repressive time.
All this three-generation encounter occurs in the shadow of a standing stone, a tall boulder featured in an ancient myth. Katie, whose bicycle rests nearby, paints at an easel when Cat appears atop the rock and Triona strolls onto the scene. They soon learn that Katie writes novels with love in the title.
And the audience soon learns that Katie finds it easier to be fond of her exuberant grandmother than her critical mother, who advises that a woman marries so she won’t need friends.
Leonard, the writer who gave the world a gentler view of men in his more popular play titled “Da,” focuses much of his creative energy to criticize the impact the Irish church has on these three women. Katie speaks cynically of “the unfettered freedom to do whatever Mother Church allows us.”
And when Cat, at age 10 in 1922, is lectured by Mother Superior in the form of her daughter, she finally erupts, “F— off.” Katie declares of parents, “They f— you up, your mom and dad.” All this on a summer day in 2012, while spanning back across the previous 90 years.
I suspect this review may convince some readers to sympathize more with the critic who called the play a muddle. But I’d put my emphasis on a thought-provoking performance by three impressive performers.