“Here she is, boys! Here she is, world! Here’s Rose!” In the musical “Gypsy,” stage mother Rose pushes her daughters into show business even though she is the one who wants to become the star. In the Performance Network Theatre’s world premiere of “The War Since Eve,” which began previews Jan. 13, the tables have turned and the mother is the star, leaving her children to either cater to her whims or flee.
The War Since Eve
Through Feb. 13th at various times
Performance Network Theatre
Tickets from $15
This fictional comedy is set on the evening that activist Roxie Firestone receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work in the feminist movement. Although Roxie has broken down boundaries for women, her personal life with her grown-up daughters would not exactly place her in the running for best mother. Her youngest daughter has been estranged for the past 22 years, while the elder one has devoted her life to Roxie – acting as secretary and companion to her mother.
Henrietta Hemelin, who plays Roxie in PNT’s production, believes her character is so oblivious to her daughter to the point that it is “unconscionable.” However, Hemelin understands that Roxie has a “control freak” tendency, which drives her youngest daughter away from her.
“I, in my personal life, have fallen into patterns of communicating where I don’t even realize what it sounds like,” Hemelin said in a phone interview with the Daily. “Here I hear what she says and I look at it and say ‘Aha!’ She’s totally oblivious to the effect it’s having (on other people).”
Hemelin has been with “The War Since Eve” since its original readings as one of the featured plays in the Fireside Festival of New Works, one of PNT’s many programs. As a local theater company, PNT is fully committed to promoting new plays and works of homegrown playwrights.
Kim Carney, the show’s writer, is no stranger to PNT, as this will be her fourth show with the company. While Ann Arbor audiences might recall Carney’s past shows “Moonglow” and “The Home Team” at PNT, she has also debuted three shows at the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea. In Carney’s latest comedy, “The War Since Eve,” she looks to find the humor in a complex relationship.
“I had heard an article in the paper a couple of years (ago) about Rosa Parks and her difficult relationship that she had with her children,” Carney said. “It got me thinking what it must be like to have a national icon as your mother and what a weird thing that it would be. I didn’t think I could write a play about civil rights, so I thought of the women’s movement.”
Bringing Carney’s play to life is lighting designer Mary Cole, who serves as the resident lighting designer for the University’s Department of Dance. She said working with PNT promotes more experiential opportunities because it functions on a much smaller scale than University Productions.
Director David Wolber, who also serves as the production’s artistic director, is excited about this new comedy.
“I love that (the play has) three strong women roles,” Wolber said, adding that this is an uncommon feat in the world of comedy.
“I think that the play connotes not only the women’s struggle for equality, but also — or more so — the war between mothers and daughters since the beginning of time,” Carney said.
Unlike “Gypsy,” Roxie was not the one found in “scrapbooks full of (her) in the background,” but her children were instead. “The War Since Eve” presents a somewhat inverted story to the musical, placing motherhood and sisterhood on the battlefield.