As I sat in yet another packed open house, Off The Wall‘s production of Mumburger set sail for its maiden voyage in the US, after Playwright Sarah Kosar migrated it from the UK stage. Off The Wall has become known for experimentally substantial theater, pushing the elements of our fragile human condition; life through the eyes of pain, sex, laughter, and free expression. Mumburger takes a huge bite out of that narrative.
The play, directed by Robyne Parrish, is based in London, and follows a daughter and father duo, holed up in a flat processing the loss of household anchor, mum and wife. TED talker, activist, loose cannon…Vegan.
As the ebb and flow painfully extracts anxiety, joy, anger, sadness, and understanding, the two try their best to cope with a horrific realization that their queen has been taken, and they are but pawns in a ruthless game of chess. Of the most truest form, the king is left the most vulnerable without his queen.
But, wait. There’s more. A lot more. As if mum knew the destructive force her death would bring to the family dynamic, she set out one last challenge, a memorial of sorts, that would ultimately unwind everything the two were so diligently trying to avoid. Every fear realized as they are faced with a choice, that really is no choice at all, because mum is always mum…Seen, heard, or otherwise.
Ken Bolden as Hugh/Dad/Husband/Cannibus enthusiast/ blundered through his grief and woefully mastered the most complicated elements of anguish as he struggled to find relevance in his own life while trying to support the descent of his grieving daughter. Frightfully afraid of the dark, Bolden sheds light on the brokenness of parenting through loss. In a heartbreaking diatribe, Bolden rips through an ode to his fallen counterpart, and with it, the hearts of men broke.
Jessie Wray Goodman as Tiffany/Daughter/Rebel/Sort of Vegan launched an arrow of despair and sarcasm into the audience, offering undulating transparency into her grief, anger, and general annoyance of living at home with a parent. Goodman delivered a litany of depth to the stage, and simply would not let go.
At one point, she bellowed in pain at the loss of her mother, and the audience rattled shut; somehow I think they were transported to personal times of loss, much as I was. The theater’s closeness didn’t allow anyone to escape the raw emotion spilling out on stage, and a collective moment of profound understanding emerged…Once we lose the ones we love, there is nothing we can do, as we are helpless infants in a cruel world of uncertainty. It was a turning point in the performance, and Goodman rode the wave to the final scene.
Mumburger is ,without a doubt, a strange play, but in the most beautiful way. Finding creative ways to address complex human issues is no easy task. From the shanty flat design to the dystopian-style screens and haunting kitchen smells, Mumburger is a play that stretches the imagination, as well as the heart.
Mumburger plays through March 16th. For more information, visit Off The Wall