On its face, Our Mother's Brief Affair is a recognizable, even familiar, story. Two adult children visiting their mother discover some long-ago secrets about their mother's life from decades earlier, but grapple with whether their mother, who is prone to truths, is pulling their leg. The story is unveiled little by little throughout the first act.
What follows, though, is an interesting -- if not daring -- choice by playwright Richard Greenberg to add another layer of intrigue just before intermission regarding whom the woman was traipsing around with. Linda Lavin does a stellar job in the starring role as Anna Cantor, galavanting around the stage and entertaining both her children and the audience with her outlandish tales.
Her son Seth (Greg Keller) is all too conveniently an obituary writer, which is a silly distraction during the show, whose motifs come out and back again in not so subtle ways. Keller and Kate Arrington, in the part of his twin sister, Abby, do their best to remain calm amid this storm of sudden memories.
Where the play comes a bit undone is in the second act when Anna's flashbacks become almost too front and center, and her grown kids float in and out of her consciousness. It's confusing at times to keep up with the emotions beneath the surface as you hope to keep up with the busy stage in front of you. With just four characters to keep track of, it's a wonder that things can appear so busy. But you long for the first act when life felt so much simpler, and the introduction of a mysterious lover was a welcomed addition, and not the source of disarray.
Director Lynne Meadow makes an ambitious attempt to put it all together. You see some theatrical hijinks you might never have seen before, including a direct address to the audience that will leave you both surprised and uncomfortable at once. It's commendable, sure, but ultimately the play doesn't find its way back to reality.