Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Zeder's play is an interesting piece set around the teenage orphan "Girl," an outsider who is struggling to find out who she is, who her mother was, and her birth name. But she isn't the only one who feels that she is an outsider; the recluse Mother Hicks, who lives up on the mountain, and the deaf, mute Tuc are just as much outsiders as "Girl," living amongst the close knit residents of the small town of Ware, Illinois. The struggles of Girl, Tuc and Hicks are well laid out in the play, which includes a rich amount of sign language delivered by Tuc as he narrates the play by signing while numerous members of the cast speak the narration. It makes for an evocative tale that combines rich detailed characters and situations, with Zeder's prose giving a sense of poetry to them.
The three leads in the Mesa Community College production are superb. Kiri Malolo is excellent as the tomboy "Girl." She embodies the part with the proper amount of spunk and feistiness to bring the character to vibrant life. As the eccentric recluse Mother Hicks, Delores E. Mendoza is appropriately matter of fact in her line delivery, evoking a character firm in her beliefs and not willing to take crap from anyone. Yet, Mendoza also shows a soft side in Mother Hicks' dealings with those who need her care and love. The fact that her use of natural elements to help heal people and animals has brought accusations of her being a witch is what forces the character to be isolated from everyone else in town, and Mendoza brings a nice sense of independence to the part that the forced isolation has caused. As Tuc, Kevin Poppell is expressive in his actions and movements. The three are impressive as they form a makeshift trio that is easy to root for as they stand together to thwart any foe.
While the entire cast is great, a few standouts in the supporting cast are Brittany Woodbury, who is funny as the young boy Ricky, who is always willing to dare and double dare someone, and Samantha Hanna, touching as the woman who hopes to become a foster parent to Girl even if it means she is at odds with her husband, played appropriately by Sam Richardson.
Debra K. Stevens gets rich performances from the cast and brings a sense of folklore and storytelling to the piece through her rich direction and the way she has staged the piece. Creative elements are nicely done, with a set design of angled platforms made up of wooden slats evoking the period of the piece and earth-tone depression period costumes from Andres Marin that serve the time element of the play effectively.
With interesting characters and an intriguing story, Mother Hicks brings up the point that everyone seems to want to find someone to blame for their misfortunes. Whether it be a sick child who passed away, as one example from the play, or the need to blame someone for the current state of the economy, that need to blame resonates today. Mesa Community College's production of Mother Hicks is a reminder that the desire to find blame for something is usually related to a blameless matter that was always out of our control or something we should have originally taken the responsibility for ourselves.
The Mesa Community College production of Mother Hicks runs through December 14th, 2014, at the MCC Southern & Dobson Campus at 1833 W. Southern Avenue in Mesa. Information on the show and tickets can be found at http://www.mesacc.edu.
Written by Suzan Zeder
Cast: (in alphabetical order):