nytheatre.com review by Tess Gill
July 22, 2006
Love, Punky is a thoughtful look at the delicate difficulties of a mother/daughter relationship. Love and hate ride a fine line as a mom's selfish choices leave her daughters feeling helpless and stuck—a sentiment we see played out in their older lives. Playwright Robin Hopkins does a fine job illustrating classic everyday confrontations that are painfully familiar to many suburban homes.
The play is constructed of multiple short scenes that take us through the history of Jess (daughter) and Rosie (mother). Opening monologues supply us their back story and particular points of view. Jess is reluctant to make the trip from her adopted home of NYC back to Nebraska for a mother who has, once again, landed herself in the hospital from an alcoholic accident—she's done with it. Mom is just mom and doesn't know how to be any other way, no apologies. Jess's older sister, Maggie, is desperate to connect with her as she believes their mother may not survive. We jump back in time, seeing Jess as a young girl struggling to make sense of her love and repulsion for her mother's frivolous behavior.
Hopkins pulls double duty as playwright as well as leading lady (as Jess). She sets the right tone for the piece with her helpless inaction, but we don't get many more colors from there. She is a touch presentational with her pathos, staying stuck in one emotional state throughout the show. Elise Rovinsky as Maggie is more revealing. I thoroughly enjoyed her type-A personality straining to be spontaneous in order to connect with her sister. Michelle Sims as Rosie is nicely cast. She embraces the devil-may-care attitude in spades while still being extremely likeable. I do wish we could see more of her character's "highs"—really laughing and showing her fun side with Jess, making it that much more difficult for her daughter to resist her. I believe it's already there in the script to play with.
Director Billy Mitchell has filled the small space with too much furniture, giving the actors little room to move. I want to see the characters fill the space with their reality, not the actors negotiate folding chairs. The choice to use blackouts between every scene is peculiar. There must be 20+ short scenes in just-over-an-hour-long play and continually stopping the action this way took me out of it at times. I'm curious if there are other more effective choices.
Although I enjoyed the play as a whole, I did wish everyone would slow down and just breathe at times. Take in their environment and their plight and just be with it. They barrel through the entire script, which is wordy. Perhaps it is directed this way, perhaps they're wanting to keep it short, but there are many poignant moments in this play that have nothing to do with the words.