Smile Politely

Mine delivers a healthy bundle of… contemplation

Walking into the Station Theatre’s production of Mine (on a dark, rainy night and as someone who gets scared very easily), I brace myself for a creepy 90 minutes of postpartum delusions. Before the lights fade out, I see the stage is set with three different locations: a bedroom, a park bench, and an office. Soon after in the pitch black room, I hear a terrifying scream that makes me jump a little in my seat; first-time mother Mari (Kalan Benbow) is giving a home-birth in her and her husband’s bedroom. I settle in, thankful for the mental preparation I had done beforehand.

But much to my surprise, Mari’s husband Peter (William Anthony-Sebastian Rose II) delivers a line that has me and the rest of the audience laughing almost as soon as the dialogue begins. I was anticipating a wholly eerie play, and while director Thom Schnarre and the cast certainly deliver on that, they also incorporate an unexpected humorous element to the show. Throughout the one-act performance, I found myself going back and forth between laughing and clenching my fists anxiously, grinning and furrowing my brows in worry. Despite being in the midst of a creepy plotline, the witty one-liners and conversations never felt forced or out of place.

I was also surprised at how normal Mari and Peter’s lives were. Aside from Mari’s delusions, her interactions with her family and midwife were nothing out of the ordinary. This isn’t to say that the play was bland — in fact, the normalcy only makes the production creepier. It dawns on you that despite the otherworldly character that’s introduced, this isn’t taking place in a far-off, made up land, but in a context that’s completely familiar to us all. Mari’s experiences are subsequently made much more realistic. You realize that any ordinary person could fall victim to the same fears and worries; you wonder how you would react in a situation as vastly new as that of Mari and Peter.

This was especially manifested as I found myself uncertain about Amy’s reality. Amy (Krystal Moya) and Mari’s interactions are crafted in such a way that even audience members are left questioning whether the former truly exists or not. At moments when she feels as more than just Mari’s imagination, it became clear how susceptible we all are to seemingly crazy, and potentially even dangerous, thoughts.

A few parts of the play felt a little slow or extraneous, but the cast delivered an emotion-filled performance throughout it all. Peter’s desperate exclamation to his wife near the end of the play had me on the verge of tears. Beyond that, Laura Marks did a spectacular job of creating multi-dimensional characters that are also refreshingly realistic. Each character had their own set of faults and problems and I felt for everyone at one point or another (except maybe Amy). Despite Mari’s very questionable actions, I couldn’t help but empathize with her. As a midwife practicing for over ten years, Michaela Kruse’s character lacks the compassion Mari desires, but why this is so is also understandable. Mari’s mother’s (Mary Rose Cottingham) attempts at helping her daughter are ultimately unsuccessful and arguably hurtful, but her intentions are always agreeable.

By the end of the show, several issues remain unresolved. Whether Amy is real or not lingers for viewers to ponder. Likewise, Mari’s future — as well as that of her entire family — is left uncertain. The audience is invited to draw their own conclusions.

Schnarre’s invitation did not go unheeded, as Mine has left me reflecting on its interpretations and implications days after its curtain-call. The effect it has had on me beyond the walls of the theatre speaks to the abilities of both the cast and the director. After watching, my mind raced through my newfound fears of childbirth. The play made me contemplate society’s expectations of new mothers. Benbow herself discovered how Mine affected the way she imagines motherhood: “Many want to acknowledge that giving birth is one of the hardest physical and mental things a person will ever do, and yet in the same breath they praise those who need no help and decry those who do by calling them lazy and entitled; now more than ever I’m a supporter of parental leave and support for new parents”. A play that not only keeps you engrossed during the performance, but also has you thinking long after its conclusion, Mine is a skillful blend of sinister and humorous that will undoubtedly make your visit to the Station worthwhile.

Mine will have nine more performances between November 4-14, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and $15 on Friday and Saturday. To reserve a seat, please call the ticket office at 217-384-4000 or place your reservation online.

Photographs by Scott Wells.

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