AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Mona Mansour
Directed by Hayley Finn
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Boyer Theatre
397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA / (415) 388-5208

Reviewed by Judy Richter

In one way, "The Way West" is about the indomitable spirit that drove pioneers ever westward despite near-insurmountable odds.

In another way? Mona Mansour's play, presented by Marin Theatre Company doesn't seem sure where it wants to go.

It's set in Central California, probably in Stockton or Modesto, in about 1998, during the recent recession. Mom (Anne Darragh) wants to declare bankruptcy after ignoring unpaid bills. The 62-year-old is also ignoring potentially serious health issues.

Her older daughter, Manda (Kathryn Zdan), is visiting from Chicago to try to organize Mom's finances. She's more or less assisted by her sister, Meesh (Rosie Hallett), who is living with Mom and whose finances are shaky, too.

Manda seems fairly OK financially, thinking nothing of paying $150 for a haircut, but she's heavily reliant on credit cards.

One bit of bad news after another leaves the three women destitute, unable to pay for a pizza delivery. Nevertheless, Mom remains relentlessly upbeat.

Stressing the pioneer theme, many scenes begin with a Mom monologue telling the story of some pioneer adventure that usually ends badly. Sometimes her daughters join her in song (music and musical direction by Sam Misner and Megan Pearl Smith).

What's confounding is that no one does anything about Mom's health issues. A possible rekindling of the romance between Manda and former boyfriend Luis (Hugo E. Carbajal) is left hanging. Some situations seem to come from theater of the absurd.

For example, a family friend, Tress (Stacy Ross), has invested thousands of Mom's and her own money in a get-rich-quick, get-thin-quick scheme that's nothing short of ludicrous.

Despite holes in the script, the production directed by Hayley Finn keeps moving thanks to outstanding performances, especially by Darragh as Mom and Ross, who is underused but brilliant as Tress.

The set by Geoffrey M. Curley (lit by Masha Tsimring) captures Mom's disorganization while evoking the pioneer theme with overhead arches reminiscent of a covered wagon. Costumes are by Christine Crook with sound by Brendan Aanes.

The two-act play runs about two hours with one intermission. Despite its basic premise and a fine cast, it goes too many different ways to be satisfying.

For More Information

Return to Home Page

  • Road (National) Tour Review Index
  • New York City & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • Berkshire, Massachusetts Theatre Review Index
  • Boston Area Theatre Review Index
  • Florida Theatre Review Index
  • London Theatre Review Index
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) Theatre Review Index
  • Philadelphia & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Review Index
  • Seattle Area Theatre Review Index
  • Toronto, Ontario (Canada) Index