Baggage, with wings

Junk in the Trunk by Gail Zavala

Like most of us, my husband James has certain rituals he likes to take care of shortly after getting home from work — including opening the day’s snail mail. Friday he was quick to bring one of many magazines to my attention.

I’d already snagged the latest issue of New Yorker — moved by cover artwork coupling the grace of Japanese cherry blossoms with the gravity of nuclear crises. But he walked into the kitchen carrying the April 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

He opened it to the “AZ Generations” column on page 8, getting his first glimpse of an article profiling three generations of Arizona Trimbles. I was reminded of the column after attending the Friday night performance of Lee Blessing’s “Eleemosynary” at Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale because it’s also a tale of three generations.

The grandmother, Dorothea (Judy Lebeau), is a rather metaphysical sort who discovered somewhere in her travels that no one bothers “the eccentric” — and she’s a quick study. She’s a tad too fond of the “we” word, a clear signal to audience members that “boundary issues” abound here.

The mother, Artie (Maureen Watson), shares early in the play that she’s got “a memory problem.” The problem, it seems, is that “it” never forgets. Still, it’s never quite clear to her whether she has one child or two — or pehaps none at all.

The daughter, Echo (Tasha Spear), is a genius who seems a gentle enough soul until she’s one of two students left competing for first place in a spelling bee. She mirrors the women of earlier generations in ways none of them are quick to admit.

“Eleemosynary,” directed by Judy Rollings, is a beautiful work. The writing is exceptional, and the acting worthy of the material. It’s a poignant reminder that we’re all running away from something.

Still, “Eleemosynary” feels remarkably light for a piece carrying so many heavy themes. Sure, there’s plenty of baggage. But it’s got magnificent wings.

— Lynn

Note: The Theatre Artists Studio production of “Eleemosynary” ends its run with a Sun, March 27, matinee. The venue is relatively small, so don’t delay in getting tickets if you’re eager to see one of the two remaining shows.

Coming up: Preview of the Phoenix Fringe Festival

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