Max is a single female who has just given birth to a child that she and her ex-girlfriend (Lisa) co-conceived with the help of her girlfriend's brother (Mike) as a sperm donor. She's currently unemployed and living in a house that is falling apart because she and her ex never got around to fixing it up before breaking up. Max is both healing physically from a difficult delivery and healing emotionally from a difficult break up. Mike, who sells marijuana for a living, is hardly the ideal father figure, especially as he is so controlled by his sister Lisa who wants Max back. To top it off, Max is not producing breast milk, and she hires Goldie, an Orthodox Jewish lactation consultant, to help her. As much as they each share a passion for motherhood, their clearly conflicting family values threaten to get the better of them.
Erin Joy Schmidt (Max) and Deborah Sherman (Goldie) are talented actresses who have deftly transformed themselves for their roles. Schmidt plays the frazzled new mother to perfection, allowing room for her character to be illogical and emotional when needed. Her conflicted feelings toward her ex-partner Lisa (Carla Harting) presence themselves with a blend of reality and humor. Harting plays the role with a convincingly mischievous half-smile that is almost enough to make Max forgive her and take her back.
Sherman has been so inhabited by the spirit of an older Orthodox Jewish woman that she is nearly unrecognizable. She wisely avoids stereotyping which would result in a caricature. Goldie is strong without being harsh. Even when at odds with Max's way of life, we can see the intent of a kind person underneath the frustration of the moment. Sara Lord shows a strong commitment to the quirky nature of her young character, Shayna. David Hemphill is a bit lacking in his commitment, and needs to explore character defining physicality to match the performance levels of those around him.
Goldie, Max & Milk contains strong commentary on the growing diversity of the family unit, and touches briefly on the vague legal protocols currently in place to accommodate that diversity. The portion of the script that addresses this is written from an emotional point of view rather than religious or political. There is also the theme of acceptance of homosexuality by a conservative culture set. That theme has perhaps been handled so thoroughly in other plays, books and movies that it is a bit lacking in impact in this one. There are some wonderfully strong moments extolling the bond of motherhood that are written and acted with great passion. The play is so estrogen-driven by the female prospective, however, that it feels like it intentionally excludes and/or denigrates men. It can be no accident that the only man in the play is represented as a none-to-bright, weak-willed drug dealer. While we hear talk of motherhood, there is little mention of the value of fatherhood. Even Goldie's references of her husband paint him as a passive presence in the life of her family. The repeated moments of breastfeeding on stage actually become tiresome. Please make your point and move on. Though the author is lucky to have her work placed in the skillful hands of actresses Sherman and Schmidt, Goldie, Max, & Milk is just a good but not great production.
Goldie, Max & Milk will be appearing at the Florida Stage through January 16, 2011. The Florida Stage is located in the Rinker Playhouse in the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach, FL. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Florida Stage Box Office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3837 (outside of Palm Beach County). You may also order tickets online at www.floridastage.org.
Florida Stage is a member of the League of Resident Theatres, Theatre Communications Group, Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and the National New Play Network, and works in association with Actors' Equity Association, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and United Scenic Artists. Funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Development Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. Florida Stage develops and produces new plays in a passionate, intimate and caring environment, adhering to a standard of uncompromising excellence. We provide a safe harbor for theatre artists and audiences to share in stories of our humanity, a place where the sheer joy of creation and the Florida Stage experience is paramount. Through our productions and our innovative educational programs, we choose to provoke dialogue in our community and inspire people of various ages, ethnic and social backgrounds.
* Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
+ Indicates a member of United Scenic Artists