Hugh Leonard's Love in the Title, now playing at Shipping Dock Theatre, is certainly a women's play, but not the kind anyone is familiar with. Three female actors play three generations of an Irish family's women. But in Leonard's fantastical plot, the women aren't exactly reunited, because they didn't know each other at these ages.
It is 1999, and 37-year-old Katie is visiting the legendary Clough-a-Regan stone in the fields of Corcamore (might as well be Glocca Morra). She is accompanied by her 30-year-old mother Triona, as she was in 1964, and Triona's 20-year-old mother Cat, who envisions herself as she was in 1932. Got that?
The women discuss their lives and relationships with understandable mother-daughter conflicts, but not entirely the normal kind, because the eldest is the granddaughter and the youngest is the grandmother. In one sense, that paradox is entirely fitting. Cat, Katie's grandmother, is only 20 and perhaps should seem the youngest because she comes from a simpler age and society.
It is not only Cat's more rigid Catholicism, more sheltered life, and young hope for the future that make her seem the most innocent of the three. She lacks the educated experiences and doubts of her granddaughter and the sophisticated rigidity and unsatisfied expectations of her daughter.
Triona finds her mother naive and her daughter immoral and disappointing. Mother and grandmother disapprove of Katie's lifestyle (no spouse or children but several sexual affairs). Katie, a writer working on her doctorate and an artist here to paint the stone, is somewhat disdainful of Cat's religious faith and bitterly resentful of Triona. Evidently, Triona's marriage to Katie's father soured because of Katie's birth, and Katie feels that her mother ignored her and never loved her.
Do they achieve resolution and loving acceptance? Nope. But we do get witty, entertaining and insightful discussions of changing times and attitudes in Ireland with memorable reflections on a more universal landscape. There is more affection and understanding than opposition in these women's relationships but no hope of consensus. Katie is also a novelist and says that she usually has "love in the title." There's much love in these three compelling lives, but not much for each other.
Under Barbara K. Biddy's understated direction Kerry Young plays Katie with dominant intelligence but pouty neediness; Maureen Mines is an elegant, cold, and disillusioned Triona; and Ruth Hollinger is an adorable but unhappy Cat.
Love in the Titleby Hugh Leonard, directed by Barbara K. Biddy, plays at Shipping Dock Theatre in Visual Studies Auditorium, 31 Prince Street, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through July 3. $12 to $22. 232-2250, www.shippingdocktheatre.org.
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