Dressed in leather, excited and nearly flying around her house, Elizabeth (Janice Lynde) is setting up her living room with candles and flowers in preparations for her fifty-fifth birthday date, when her college-age daughter Olivia (Michelle Glavan) unexpectedly shows up. She has flown in to celebrate Mom’s special day, only Mom’s not excited one single bit! On the contrary, she’s shocked, constantly checking the time, and suggests her daughter spends the evening at her friend’s place.
“It’s good that you’re having a date,” Olivia says with no intention of leaving – and starts prying Mom for information, unaware that she’s about to crack open the worst Pandora’s box. After using up her arsenal of elusive answers, Elizabeth reluctantly concedes: “I met him on Craigslist… This morning… He’s twenty six.”
Upset and disgusted, Olivia lashes out at Mom with a lecture on moral values and self-image, driving her to tears (and into the bathroom) just as her date shows up. Elizabeth refuses to come out leaving Olivia to deal with Thorn (John Roderick Davidson), who is polite, courteous, black and with a sense of humor. “I’m not being paid for this,” Thorn tries to placate the raging Olivia, “I just like to have sex with different women.”
The idea of a birthday surprise occurred to Olivia’s brother Tim (Jacob Crumbine) as well, who has flown in with his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Rozanski). Mistaking Thorn for Olivia’s boyfriend, Tim demands to know what Olivia “has done this time” to get her mother to seek refuge on the toilet. The entire family history unwraps in front of your eyes, including Elizabeth bitter divorce, the runaway father, Tim’s echelon of girlfriends and Olivia’s talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. But just as we think we can be shocked no further, there comes another birthday surprise in a shape of male stripper (Zack Gold) who Sarah hired for Elizabeth’s entertainment. Apparently everyone has their own idea how to celebrate Mom’s birthday,while her own wishes are pushed to the very bottom of the list.
The semi-dysfunctional family where everyone seems to know what’s best for others, has a long way to go to settle their arguments, but there is one thing they can surely do today: grant Mom her birthday wish. Are they smart, considered and open-minded enough to do so? See for yourself.
Engaging, emotional and challenging societal norms, this modern drama will certainly get a few blushes out of you and probably more than a strip show. Plus, this was the best acting I saw at Fringe this year. “That was excellent!” a woman with a slight German accent breathed out behind me as the troupe bid farewell and left the stage. I couldn’t agree with her more.