My Mother's Cars
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 1, 2012
In My Mother's Cars, writer/performer Megan Dunlop shares stories about her own past and her mother's, describing lives of deferred dreams, disappointment, and accommodation. The play jumps back and forth between two major narrative threads—one that follows Megan's mother, Margaret, through the early years of adulthood and an unsatisfactory marriage; and another, set in the present day, in which Megan prepares to leave her native Canada for a new life as an actor in New York City. Unfortunately, just as Megan is about to make her move, Margaret is involved in a serious car accident that puts her in the hospital (and, for a time, in a coma).
Dunlop portrays many characters in this solo piece, but it is Margaret who dominates the play. She's a vital, lively, and engaging woman, but she's plagued by a certain amount of bad luck and many notable poor choices. She seems happiest when she's behind the wheel of one of the many cars she's owned and driven throughout her life—Dunlop employs them explicitly as symbols of the escape from the mundane and everyday that Margaret longs for.
Directed by Amber Godfrey, My Mother's Cars feels very much like a work-in-development. Clocking in at about 40 minutes, it feels underwritten and ends rather abruptly, before its themes are fully realized. Dunlop has a worthy and fascinating leading character in Margaret, whose eccentricity and quixotic gallantry elevate her from the ordinary. But Megan herself is much more shadowy, and I wanted to understand much more about the relationship between these two women. Does Megan learn things about herself as she uncovers hidden truths about her mother? Perhaps if she reveals to her audience what lessons may be taken from her mother's travails, this play may begin to feel more complete.