At first in Richard Greenberg's Our Mother's Brief Affair, as described by her son Seth while she is on her deathbed, Linda Lavin's Anna appears to be cut from the familiar cloth of Great Neck moms, ambitious for their children and somewhat lost in suburban torpor. But Anna has a secret, actually two, that she needs to impart to her children. Abby (Kate Arrington) flies in from California, and the siblings learn about their mother, the narcissistic woman with great gams, they've grown to distrust--she was nostalgic for a time that never happened, says Seth (Greg Keller). Well, according to Anna, a great adventure enlivened her boring past.
No spoiler. The title betrays most of it. While Anna brought Seth into the city for classes at Julliard, she was whiling away the wait time with a man (Philip Hoffman on the evening I attended) she met on a Central Park bench, a widower with a wild history, even though he grew up in the neighborhood. They dance in a hotel room, forging a bond from loneliness through revelation. From everything we learn about her, Anna's taste in men, or what was available to her in her time, lacked integrity. And except for her husband, she was either blindly forgiving, or clueless. Greenberg is really good at working this nuance.
Our Mother's Brief Affair, a Manhattan Theater Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, and under Lynne Meadow's fine direction, becomes a memory play for Anna, and a mystery for her children: What exactly is the truth? As the play shifts times and scenes, with Santo Loquasto's spare and dour set, the reason to see it is Linda Lavin's extraordinary performance, her eye rolling and bad dancing enormously endearing. Playing this mom is a well-seasoned fit for her, total comfort theater for us
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