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THEATER REVIEW : Mother's Day Sitcom : Steven J. Silverman's play at Burbank's Victory Theatre seems like a production awaiting commercials.

July 02, 1993|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Robert Koehler writes regularly about theater for The Times

Playwright-director Steven J. Silverman has a certain political intent behind his new play, "Mother's Day," at Burbank's Victory Theatre, and it would have been nice to see him realize it. His political message is also one for the family-- real love means accepting your kin the way they are, even if they're gay--so it would seem that "Mother's Day" might cut across all demographics.

Turning the play into a light comedy would also seem to help make the political medicine go down, but that is precisely what keeps getting in the way of Silverman and his cast. So leaden and belabored are the intended laughs, so incapable of eliciting those laughs is the cast, that by the time Adam (David Jacobson) gets around to telling his folks about his boyfriend in California, you wish that professional outing maestro Michelangelo Signorile had done the work for him.

Of course, there are complications preventing Adam from simply waltzing in the door of his parents' New England home and telling them the news. For one thing, it's the birthday of his mother Susan (Denise Alexander)--not a good time for upsetting news. For another, Adam's nutty Jewish sister Lisa (Crystal Carson) announces to one and all that she wants to become a nun.

In its basics, Adam's is the kind of situation that gay and lesbian children must confront on their passage to honest self-identity, and it's absolutely the stuff of a play.

The issue is, what kind of play. Silverman hasn't really decided, and choosing to direct his own play clearly doesn't help the decision-making. His clunky, line-'em-up blocking and slack pacing are his text's worst enemy, so the jokes have the resonance of one tired hand-clapping.

For all that, Silverman must keep working hard, through two long-feeling acts, to prevent Adam from announcing the news. Silverman's prime device is Lisa's idiotic intrusions and her far-fetched romance with a black priest (Bert Walker), all of which is a way of reinforcing the notion that Adam is still the good boy in the family. It also gets us wildly off track and pushes Adam into the comedy's shadows; it literally becomes Lisa's show, even though Carson is an unengaging comic actor.

Indeed, Silverman is constantly losing track of his characters. Adam's companion and friendly emotional rock, Meg (Cheryl Richardson) comes and goes for no useful reason. Adam's Uncle Abe (Larry Marko) goes into the hospital with a heart attack for no purpose other than to cause a crisis and thus delay Adam's revelation--and for Silverman to write a silly cat-fight scene for Joan Crosby and Lila Teigh as two of Adam's many loony relatives.

When the play's core finally emerges--which is Adam confronting his mom, with father (Josef Behrens) offering words of wisdom--Silverman still can't resist turning it into one more sitcom episode. "Mother's Day" finally turns an inherently seriocomic subject into a piece waiting for the commercials to come.

WHERE AND WHEN

What: "Mother's Day."

Location: Victory Theatre, 3326 Victory Blvd., Burbank.

Hours: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, through July 25.

Price: $15 to $17.

Call: (818) 841-5421 or (818) 769-2956.

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