Off the Wall theater company has dedicated its Year of the Woman season to productions that showcase female relationships, so it's only natural that its Mother's Day play would highlight the mother-daughter bond. The company also has kept it in the family: "About Ruth" is a new work by artistic director Virginia Gruenert, in collaboration with Linda Haston, a local director-actor whose experiences are related in the play.
Ms. Haston, whose late mother, Ruth, suffered from dementia, was a company member during the last years of her mother's life.
"Some of the references that are made on stage -- when she was in rehearsal, her mother kept calling her and couldn't remember that she just had called -- actually happened at our theater," said Hans Gruenert, Off the Wall's managing director. "My wife [Virginia] spent a lot of time with Linda after her mother passed on, and they felt there was so much to the story to shed a light on. Linda gave Virginia her diaries, and they started about a year and a half ago."
The play, directed by F.J. Hartland and featuring Ms. Haston, Diana Ifft and Adrienne Wehr, tells the story of a strong-willed mother and daughter from the Hill District through interactions with a white social worker going through a similar situation with her mother. "So those two exchange their stories," Mr. Gruenert said. "It really shows that it doesn't matter what color you are. Mothers and daughters have the same issues."
It's no accident that "Without Ruth" is the company's choice for Mother's Day. The Carnegie theater company is best known for works with adult themes, but "there is no language or situations that the general theater-going audience cannot relate to," Mr. Gruenert said. "We obviously occasionally have a play for selective audiences, but this play, anyone from 14 to 80 or 90 can sit and find something they've experienced themselves."
The 2013-14 season has been extended into May and from four to six plays, all written by women. Coming next year is Sarah Treem's comedy "A Feminine Ending," about a woman supporting her man and earning her mother's disapproval, and "Inky," Rinne Groff's story of a Manhattan husband and wife whose lives are changed by the nanny who cares for their children.
Sharon Eberson: email@example.com or 412-263-1960.