Smile Politely

Mine is a dangerous word

“…becoming a parent teaches you a new level of love you never knew you were capable of, a new level of worry and fear that you never knew you were capable of, and a new ability to do things you were never capable of before, out of love for your child.”

This perspective comes from Michaela Kruse, who plays Joan, the midwife in the Station’s upcoming production of Mine by Laura Marks. The play tells the story of Mari, a first-time mother participating in an at-home birth surrounded by her husband and mother with the help of a midwife. After labor, Mari harbors the certainty that the baby is not actually hers, a line of thought that is fed by a mysterious stranger. While the synopsis may bring to mind that new level of fear and worry, parts of the script seem to suggest that Mari is discovering these new abilities to do things, things she never would have considered before having a child. 

Those things promise to be drastic, visceral, and quite possibly sinister. Those things might include hallucinating a shadow-self projection. Or denying her own need for recovery before getting out of bed. Or … whatever it is about the script that dictates the baby be a lifelike, realistic, breathing doll.

Director Thom Schnarre speaks about the script tackling a woman’s struggle with post-partum depression, saying it conveys “the true horror many women endure when their own emotional well-being conflicts with the duties of a new parent.” Kalan Benbow who plays Mari has a slightly different take. Her own contemplation of the role led her to consider the conflicting messages society places on new mothers, observing that Mari’s family seems skeptical of her speedy recovery, but they expect her to immediately answer the baby’s every need.  Regardless of Mari’s mental diagnosis, this duality would strain anyone, let alone what it would do to a new mother who has just gone through the mental and physical strain of childbirth only eight hours before.

Are Mari’s post-partum delusions due to a chemical imbalance, or are the expectations of her immediate family creating a mental break? This is only one of the ambiguities of Marks’ multilayered work. Krystal Moya, who plays the possible-faerie Amy, says her character “can be very complicated or just boil down to a singular motivation, and I think that Marks wants us to jump back and forth between the two.” Even down to the fact that the one-word title implies two obvious interpretations, it seems clear that the playwright intends for every element to operate on many levels. Mary Rose Cottingham reflects, “[Marks] has written a very layered piece that gets more nuanced the more you look into it.” When the entire cast is impressed by myriad meanings within the play, after weeks of saying the same words repeatedly, that seems like a good indicator that the work has quite a bit of depth.

It’s reassuring that there’s more to this play than just a creeping sense of dread and suspicion. Cottingham, playing Mari’s mother, mused about the relationship between two generations of mothers. Peter, Mari’s husband played by William Rose II, says the role made him examine how he approaches all relationships, considering the disparity between what we imagine and the reality of what we live. And while the cast members who are already parents didn’t feel too changed by portraying their roles, at least one enjoyed hearing Schnarre, “giving very professional direction about episiotomies, menstruation, and lactation, followed by asking the two parents in the cast if he was accurate.”

A psychologically-thrilling plot, visceral subject matter, multi-dimensional characters, and endless interpretations should be enough to get you into your seat. Combining those elements with a tension-filled score designed by Mike Prosise and a vividly chaotic performance space realized by Niccole Powers and Bradley Ashby should make Mine a truly memorable evening at the theatre. 

Mine will have 13 performances between Oct. 29th – Nov. 14th, 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.

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