MINE; A Haunting Look At Motherhood, Sanity And Certainty

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Hillary Clemens as Mari (center), Gabriel Franken as Peter and Alexandra Main as Joan in The Gift Theatre’s ‘Mine,’ playing now through Aug. 11.

Reviewed by: Joseph Hillenmeyer

When asked why he chose Laura Marks’ “Mine” for the mid-season production at The Gift Theatre, artistic director and co-founder Michael Patrick Thornton said he was intrigued by its exploration of motherhood and its uncertainty.

“It makes the argument against certainty – we live in a time where everyone thinks they’re right, they know everything,” said Thornton.

Uncertainty is at the heart of the production, but not the type that can be brushed aside and worried about later. “Mine” conjures up questions and doubt about sanity, love, and folklore; mother or monster, reality or dream, right or wrong.

Making its Chicago premiere under the direction of Marti Lyons, “Mine” begins with the start of a new life, opening with a mother giving birth at home and then curling up in bed with her husband and newborn for some rest.

Waking the next morning things still seem normal and predictable, husband Peter (Gabriel Franken) is running very late to work and with an important investor meeting scheduled; wife and new mother Mari (Hillary Clemens) is slow to rise from the pain of the birth, but shuffles to the bedside crib to see her new child.

The play’s tone changes quickly when Mari is horrified to find her child gone and replaced with another – surely any mother’s worst nightmare. Things get even harder for Mari when her husband, midwife and mother disagree that the child has been swapped and assure her she is just experiencing some postpartum depression.

Certain that she knows the child that grew in her for nine months well enough to know it is not the one in her arms, Mari beings looking for answers. The answers she finds, however, lead only to more uncertainty about the lengths to which a mother can go to save her child.

Truly haunting, “Mine” delivers a twisted look at maternal devotion in the face of impossible decisions and unimaginable circumstances. Clemens is so convincing as the new mother that you will want to believe that she must know her own child, but like the rest of her family you will questions how it could possibly – given what we know about the world we live in – be true.

Perhaps that is the best thing about “Mine,” even when it’s over that uncertainty will leave the theater with you and keep you pondering. Is insanity just the price someone pays for knowing the secrets of this world’s complete reality? Or is all that we know the truth and to go against it just the product of misfiring synapses and chemical imbalances?

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Cyd Blakewell as Amy and Hillary Clemens as Mari in The Gift Theatre’s ‘Mine.’

The Gift Theatre’s very intimate space brings the intense production right onto the laps of the audience, increasing the suspense during the more twisted scenes, and also the awkwardness during the couples’ more personal ones. The lighting (Mac Vaughey) and original music (Christopher Kriz) also do much to help set the haunting mood of the play without suggesting to the audience which scenes are fact and which fiction.

“Mine” runs through August 11 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30 and can be purchased by calling (773) 283-7071 or at www.thegiftheatre.org. For calender information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com.