Now That She's Gone
nytheatre.com review by Roger Nasser
August 12, 2008
Now That She's Gone is a sweet, honest memoir play. It is about the relationship between writer/performer Ellen Snortland and her mother Barbro Snortland. It documents the mother–daughter relationship from Ellen's early childhood to her adulthood. Or, as Ellen puts it, it is "unveiling the mystery of my mother." Now That She's Gone is a very poignant, moving piece. At its heart, it's about Ellen's need to make her mother proud of her—or rather to receive the validation that all of us seek from our parents.
When I entered the theatre there was a slide show going of different family pictures. That was a very nice touch. The rest of the stage is set up as Barbro's apartment in the assisted living facility where she spent her last years. There are boxes that say either "donate" or "keep" on them. During the course of the show, Ellen is packing up her mother's things. Although that makes complete sense I felt that some of the action was unnecessary. Ellen's storytelling is enough.
Ellen Snortland takes us on a journey through her life and the relationship that she had with her Norwegian mother. She also discusses her relationship with her father and her two sisters, but her mother is the focal point of this touching play. Ellen shares many anecdotes about her life experiences and they are all worth hearing.
Aside from being a performer, Ellen is also a feminist activist and a lawyer among other things. She has had many great accomplishments in her life and after each one she looks to her mother for a "great job, I'm proud of you" but Barbro isn't very affectionate. Ellen eventually accepts that and later sees a plausible reason of why her mother was not outgoing. I don't want to give anything away—it's better that you hear it from Ellen first hand.
Barbro was a huge fan of humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt and instilled in Ellen a love of Eleanor Roosevelt and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Articles from the Declaration are mentioned throughout the show. While this mention of history was important to their relationship, other events were also brought up that I felt weren’t as necessary to the story.
Now That She's Gone is really a beautiful piece. Ellen does a great job of letting us into her life. She is very candid at times and extremely honest. She has a knack for entertaining the audience and is at complete ease as she shares difficult personal issues to us. The fun choreography during the show is supplied by Leanne Fonteyn. John Mitchell has done a superb job directing a sweet and sentimental play. Now That She's Gone is a very interesting show about two very interesting women. It really shouldn't be missed.