- Photo courtesy of Jason Snyder
- Mary Lipple in New Stage Theatre's Blackbird Pie.
Why sit around waiting for a plum role when you can write your own? Mary Lipple has written and is performing a one-woman play called Blackberry Pie, presented by New Stage Theatre. She plays a young woman summing up her life via video recording, and we are eavesdropping on her confessional.
Lipple is a subtle, intelligent actress easily accessing the emotions and memory that keep the 80 minutes moving. Directed by Kyle Bostian, she plays with enough variation and entertainment that the piece is over before you know it. (From a critic, there is no higher praise.)
But a few thoughts as Lipple and Bostian continue developing the play. Blackbird Pie does feel more like a playwright servicing an actor, rather than the character. Given Lipple's considerable abilities as an actress, that's unsurprising. But the endless array of flawless dialects which Lipple unfurls, and the showy theatricality -- at one point, Lipple even tap dances! -- continually remind us we are watching an actress ply her trade rather than a woman living her life.
She's also telling the story to the wrong person; the woman is dying and the recording is meant for her daughter's 12th birthday. But rarely do we feel we're watching a conversation between mother and daughter. It's not just that the stories are wildly inappropriate for a young girl (which may be Lipple's point). Everything the woman says is solely about herself. Even her rare references to the daughter's life and future are only used to talk about herself more. At 12, the girl's gonna switch off the recording and think, "God, my mother was such a diva!"
I imagine that when you're actually saying goodbye to your only child, the last thing you'd do is turn her into your audience. I must say as well (without giving too much away) that the woman is dying because she makes an incredibly selfish decision rooted in vanity. Lipple really needs to rethink that choice.
There's too much good writing here not to continue fine-tuning the script, but a few conceptual fundamentals still need to be addressed.
BLACKBIRD PIE continues through Sat., Oct. 22. New Stage Theatre at Grey Box Theatre, 3595 Butler St., Lawrenceville. www.new-stage.org