nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
August 17, 2011
Erin Austin’s play Fit is about three generations of women in one family and interweaves scenes from their lives when they were each twenty years old. There is Fiona: a beautiful, high-strung new mother in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1960s. There is Fiona’s daughter Lauren: a rebellious young woman in the 1980s looking for trouble and a way out of Glasgow. Then there is Lauren’s daughter Mary: raised in America in the present day, training to be a hair dresser. The play opens with the three women on stage together, staring off into their own dreamy worlds sharing a Scottish folk song across the generations. I braced myself for a predictable, sentimental story. Not to worry! Austin’s dialogue, Ross Evans’s direction and three fine actresses keep things interesting and unexpected.
We are first introduced to Mary (played by Molly Stoller), who blows into her grandfather’s flat to meet him for the first time, chattering non-stop like a high-speed train running out of control. Her stoic grandfather Ian (played excellently by Elliot Crown) is stunned by her manner as she tries to coax hugs, her Scottish heritage, and gratitude out of him all in the first five minutes of their acquaintance. She is there to help him clean up the apartment in the wake of Fiona’s recent death. He is still grieving her loss, but Mary has helpfully “googled ‘grief counseling’” in preparation. Mary has been haunted by her grandmother’s beautiful photo her whole life and Ian describes his late wife as “a Queen til the day God took her away.” He also points out how much thinner Fiona was at twenty than Mary is and that he is disappointed that his daughter Lauren sent her instead of coming back to see him herself.
So it is a bit of a shock when we meet Fiona (played by Lauren Connolly) and find out that she isn’t, in fact, so perfect after all. Mary clearly inherited her high strung insecurity and nervous lack of control from Fiona. Fiona is having a very rough time at twenty years old and feels completely out of control. She has no idea how to be a good mother. Her lack of compassion and frustration with her daughter’s crying scares her. She is also coping with jealousy of the love her husband now shares with her baby. She tries to make up for these and more sins (revealed later in the play) through prayer and begging forgiveness and direction from the Virgin Mary.
Lauren (played by Harmony Stempel), the daughter of Fiona and mother of Mary, is another beast entirely. She is a smoking, trash-talking, free-spirit and, unlike her mother, in complete control of the sins she racks up intentionally. She can’t wait to get out of Glasgow. When a young American tourist falls for her sassy wit and easy morals, she sees a ticket out. Stempel is irresistibly cool and rocks some of the funniest lines in the play. Her scenes with Alex Kaplan (who plays her American love interest) were my favorites.
Director Ross Evans, through his innovative staging, never misses an opportunity to physically link the worlds and lives of these women. The three actresses and the actors playing Ian in his 20s (Anthony Comis) and Ian the grandfather (Crown) clearly did a lot of work to create behavioral similarities in the connected people they portray.
Is it a sentimental story? Yes. Will I admit that it made me cry? Oh yes. But Fit is performed with enough quirky details, integrity and ingenuity that they can get away with it.