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'Mother and Child' a Heartfelt Goodbye

September 12, 1997|JANA J. MONJI

Ann Wedgeworth is both funny and heart-wrenching as a ditsy, but loving, Southern fundamentalist who visits her terminally ill only child in "Mother and Child" at Coast Playhouse.

Written and directed by Matthew Lombardo, the play drags in places--a fault sometimes due to the direction and other times to the writing. More troubling is the imbalance of the characterizations.

Granted, Wedgeworth is playing just another variation of her Merleen character from the television series "Evening Shade," but she does it so well. Here she is a cheaper, more pathetic version. Haggard with over-teased blond hair, she still charms us despite her slightly racist tendencies and her irritating habit of reinventing the past.

Flying in from Mississippi, she goes to New York City's St. Vincent Hospital to visit her 33-year-old son (Steven Lee Scott) on Christmas Eve, the day before his birthday. Scott plays the physically feeble and sometimes indulgent son well enough, but he never rises to the charismatic heights of whimsy that Wedgeworth does with such ease. This weakens both the rhythm and appeal of this production.

Yet "Mother and Child" is worth seeing if only because Wedgeworth manages to be funny while conveying a mother's overwhelming sense of sadness when she must bid her child farewell.


* "Mother and Child," Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 and 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 12. $25. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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