CYCLING PAST THE MATTERHORN
nytheatre.com review by Andrea Lepcio
Go see this play. It is unstintingly honest, extremely well written, and
splendidly acted. Judging from the laughter throughout and resounding
applause at the end, the audience loved it as much as I did. Written and
directed by Deborah Grimberg, Cycling Past the Matterhorn is a
family comedy that is unafraid of the dark. It is equal parts a coming
of age story both for a daughter and her mother. The daughter, who has
yet to make very much of her life, fears being stuck at home with her
Mum forever. The mother, having just been left by her husband, grapples
with middle age and her fears of being left entirely alone. Revealing
truth from each of the characters’ perspective with skill, Grimberg also
captures the ways in which our behavior changes depending on whom we are
with. When the mother, having been told she is going blind, reassures
her loyal sister that she will be fine, and then turns on a dime to wail
at her daughter about her true fear and frustration, the audience roars
August 15, 2003
The talented actors excel at delivering Grimberg’s juxtaposed dialogue and slice-and-dice action. You will fall in love with Kathleen Peirce as Esther, the mother. Hers is a performance not to be missed and makes Caitlin Loesch-Jones’ job as the daughter doubly hard. Fortunately, Loesch-Jones finds exactly the right tone to keep us wishing she gets what she wants even as we worry about what that might mean for her mother. Susan Wallack, Don Fowler, and Nina Jacques in supporting roles serve both the central story and deliver fully realized characters. I love this kind of acting (and writing) where it seems with each exit the characters are going off to an equally interesting drama of their own.
Too many plays purport to be about a dysfunctional family and then busily crowd the stage with peculiar relatives, unusual tics, and unheard-of human behavior. Grimberg’s dysfunctional family moves us because we can recognize ourselves and our loved ones in it. While she adds extremes such as the out-of-shape mother taking up long distance cycling, she has created very real people who surprise us in the ways our own families’ surprise.
The opening music by Gai Prathan created a delicious atmosphere as the lights came up. Given the budget and technical limitations of FringeNYC, Chavalit Trakulsantirat’s simple set combined with Grimberg’s direction work wonders in creating the world of the play. Cycling Past the Matterhorn is a delight that deserves its spot at the festival and continued life elsewhere.