Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Madrid

Being a mom is hard. Really hard. So is being a wife. I mean, the fairytale is that you get married and live happily ever after. The truth is that the point up until the wedding and the baby is the easy part.  If you're among the fortunate ones, you get to grow up in a home with 1 or 2 loving parents or in 2 houses with 3 or 4 loving parents, you get your washing done, your meals cooked, you get sent to school and taught stuff and then sent to University and taught more stuff. You have someone looking out for you all the time. You have options, decisions, choices to make about what YOU want to do. The possibilities are endless.  You just have to grab a hold of something and run with it - supported lovingly by family and friends who applaud each wobbly step you take from toddlerhood to graduation. Then you date, you mess around, you drink, travel, explore, screw up. You do all the stuff YOU want to do. Pizza at 3am - sure! All nighters are completely voluntary. A trip to *insert relevant location* for the weekend - LOVE to.

At some point you find a girl or a guy and things are great. You move in together, you get engaged and then you have a wedding (or some variation of that sequence) ... and eventually if you are lucky enough to be of the fecund variety, you have a baby.  At that point every single thing you want to do moves to the bottom of the list.  Your child's needs, your husband's needs, your family's needs become numero uno.  Sometimes you hide in the bathroom. And sometimes, that is not enough. You want, on a very overwhelmingly primal level, to run away. ANYTHING, anything at all would be better than the relentless malaise of a suburban fairytale your life has become.

That is what The Madrid is about.  Edie Falco plays the tormented yet detached Martha, the mother of 22 year-old Sarah and wife of John.  A family of teachers, they live in a middle-class neighborhood surrounded by doting friends and a crotchety Frances Sternhargen as Martha's mother, Rose.  Martha runs away. She leaves a message saying 'I'm leaving' and that's it.  Her husband, daughter and mother are bereft. One day, Martha arrives at Sarah's workplace (Starbucks) and their fractured, dysfunctional relationship unfolds before us.  Sarah feels the need to take her mother's place at home, nurturing her father and actively taking care of her aging grandmother.  She holds it all together while John and Rose lose the ability to function without Martha.

The play is uncomfortable.  This isn't supposed to happen - mom's don't just leave. You only get to leave when you die - as Rose points out.  No-one knows how to deal with the situation in a satisfying manner. Should John date? Go on His wife exists, is living, is in the same city presumably but not in his home. What are the rules here?

Sarah begins a clandestine relationship with her mother. She accepts a $10,000 bribe to keep her location a secret. She is so desperate to be near her that she actively lies to her father, her grandmother and their neighbors.  Eventually, the mother/child bond supersedes Martha's desire to run away and be anonymous.

What I took home from this play was that once you're a mother, you're a mother.  You may have a fervent desire to escape the sometimes stifling confines of that role and all it entails, but the fundaments of your being are irreparably altered.  This isn't the kind of piece that provokes a rousing applause or a standing ovation.  Certainly there will be audience members who leave the theatre frowning and shrugging.  Martha spends 3 years saving and planning to make her escape.  This play explores the repercussions of what happens when mom runs away from home.  A modern fairytale? Maybe. Sometimes happily ever after ain't all it's cracked up to be.

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