"Memory House

Directed by Lew Hackleman

Phoenix Theatre

Through Aug. 13

Memory House is one long fight between a mother and her 18-year-old daughter. The contention begins with the college essay daughter Katia (Kelsey Hanlon) is supposed to have finished. We find out, though, that the real issue is that Katia is adopted. After spending her early childhood in Russia, she was brought to the United States.

The show tries to be a statement about family and the politics of international adoption, but Katia is a real brat, flinging accusations at her mother (Maggie, played by Julie Dixon) regarding Maggie’s supposedly wasted and lackadaisical life. And, with egging on by her political scientist father (who only appears over the phone — this is a divorced household), Katia declares that she is nothing more than the spoils of war. She lays the current condition of Russia squarely at the feet of the U.S., and declares she hates this country and no longer wants to go to college.

These issues are intriguing, but the show only scratches the surface of them. More in-depth examination regarding the ramifications of international adoption would have given the play more substance, as would more facts about U.S. bullying in foreign countries. Instead, we have the shrill angst of a teen-ager having an identity crisis coupled with a mother who exhibits the patience of Job. Sadly, this results in one-dimensional characters. A quick reconciliation scene and Katia’s running off to post her college application and hang with her friends seem to undercut the show’s theme, as well.

Making an allegorical statement throughout is a blueberry pie being baked by Maggie right on stage — you can smell it — with the aid of a functional kitchen set.

Memory House, by Kathleen Tolan, premiered at the 2005 Humana Festival and won the Best of the Fest award. But, at only 85 minutes with no intermission, the play could still benefit from additional information and workshopping.

Lew Hackleman directs Memory House at the Phoenix Theatre, playing through Aug. 13, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25. The Phoenix is located at 749 N. Park Ave.; 317-635-PLAY.



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