by Lorie Lewis Ham
This past weekend I Remember Mama opened on stage at 2nd Space Theatre in Fresno, presented by Good Company Players. The play premiered on Broadway on October 19, 1944. It was written by John Van Druten and based on Kathryn Forbes’ novel Mama’s Bank Account, which was loosely based on her childhood. It is a study of family life centered on a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco early in the 20th century.
Katrin (Jessica Rose Knotts) is the oldest child and she narrates much of the story and is our guide through this time in the family’s life. Katrin wants to be a writer and has a tendency to be overdramatic. The youngest, Dagmar (Gracelyn Borzini), is precocious and full of energy. She has a cat named Elizabeth, later christened Uncle Elizabeth (Phoebe Buffay Leyva), who steals the show when she is on stage. Uncle Elizabeth is played by a beautiful, real life black and white cat. The middle daughter Christine (Madeline Wristen) tends to clash with Katrin. They have a brother named Nels (Benjamin Geddert) who very much wants to go to school if they can find a way to afford it. Papa (Eric Bako) tries to keep the peace in the family and throws in some very funny observations now and then. And then of course there is Mama (Kate McKnight), who is at the heart of this family and this show. It is truly Mama’s love for everyone, even the difficult ones, that keeps the family together and somehow she always seems to find a way to make everything work out.
There are also the three aunts—Aunt Jenny (Sandra Montelongo) the bossy and cynical one, Aunt Sigrid (Michelle Olson) the whiny one, and Aunt Trina (Kylee Rene Leyva) the sweet young one who desperately wants to get married to Mr. Thorkelson (Thomas Nance). There is also Sigrid’s son Arne (Evie Van Vleet). Last, but definitely not least, we have Uncle Chris (Noel Adams), who is the no nonsense head of the family who always speaks his mind. He has some of the funniest, and some of the sweetest, moments in the show. Noel did a wonderful job of bringing this curmudgeon with a heart of gold to life. Uncle Chris is one of my favorite characters in the show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the family’s boarder, Mr. Hyde (Terrance McArthur), a charming actor who regales the family with his readings from classic tales each night. Being a storyteller himself, the role was a perfect fit for Terrance, who is usually the one writing these reviews. No one tells a story like Terrance.
I Remember Mama is a sweet and heartwarming show with a lovely and talented cast who do such a good job of bringing this family to life that you want to join them at their kitchen table. If you are looking for an escape from the stresses of the world and a reminder of what really matters in life, don’t miss your chance to see I Remember Mama. It will be on stage at 2nd Space through June 19, 2022.
The 2nd Space Theatre is at 928 E. Olive Ave, in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.