Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Ya Mama!
Cleveland Public Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's review of John

Nina Domingue
Photo by Steve Wagner
Wow! That's the first word that came to mind after witnessing Nina Domingue's outstanding one-woman play Ya Mama!, now on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Ya Mama! began life as part of a Cleveland Public Theatre Big Box Series, after which it was featured in the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, then it returned to Cleveland for Cleveland Public Theatre's 2011-2012 season. This past June it went west to the Hollywood Fringe Festival and has returned to Cleveland in a full production with thoughtful direction by Nathan Henry.

The 75-minute one-act play begins with Nina relating all of the things about motherhood that she was never taught. These "They don't tell you about ..." moments are what the play hinges on as Nina bares all about her hardscrabble life.

After Nina was born her mother suffered from undiagnosed postpartum psychosis, which after six suicide attempts eventually led to her committing suicide by drinking drain cleaner when Nina was four years old. Nina and her sister Aisha were then sent to live with various relatives around the country until finally returning to live with their father Gregory, who then married Betty. The stepmother eventually turns to psychological and physical abuse in order to "control" her charges. During this short yet intense trip through her hell and redemption, Nina Domingue manages to effectively portray 25 distinct characters who were a part of her life.

In accompaniment high above the stage is percussionist and foley artist Bill Ransom, who carefully adds just enough background sound to bring the various scenes to life. The show is produced by CPT's Executive Director Raymond Bobgan, with scenic design by Inda Blatch-Geib whose stage is best described as designed chaos. Monique Cuyler does an exemplary job on the lighting and sound design, and Kenya Woods' fine efforts as choreographer and movement coach are evident throughout the production.

Think of Ya Mama! as an extended roller coaster as you live the highs and lows of Nina's life. You witness her at the nadir as well as the peak of her tumultuous but fascinating life. It is probably the most gripping 75 minutes you will ever spend in a theater seat. This is intense theater that may not be suitable for young children.

Ya Mama!, through October 27, 2018, at Cleveland Public Theatre, Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased by calling 216-631-2727 or by visiting

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