Mama Mama Can’t You See Review – What the War has Done to Me

The Cast of MAMA MAMA CAN'T YOU SEE - Photo by Meredith Adelaide
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Just in time for Veteran’s Day, the Coin & Ghost Theater Company presents MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE, a play written by U.S. Marine veteran Stan Mayer and Cecilia Fairchild. Directed and choreographed by Coin & Ghost artistic director Zachary Reeve Davidson, MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE was inspired by playwright Mayer’s time as a Marine and focuses on the mythology of war and how war affects people. To quote Davidson, “Here, we’re recontextualizing the classic war story. The play isn’t about the war itself, but how we make sense of the moments that shape us, how our innate connection to each other is a necessary part of our processing. It’s not a pro- or anti-war treatise. It’s a play about being human that requires audiences to engage back with us, exploring time and reality in a way that feels extremely relevant and exciting within the multiverse-heavy, pop-culture zeitgeist.”

The cast of MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE – Photo by Meredith Adelaide

MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE tells the story from the perspective of Mayer and three Marines from the war in Iraq (Julian Juaquin, Ryan Nebreja, and Zack Rocklin-Waltch) and four sex workers from the U.S. Civil War (Marguerite French, Kathleen Leary, Carene Rose Mekertichyan, and Hannah Trujillo) who attempt to help Mayer describe events that took place in Iraq on May 7, 2005 which entailed an explosion and firefight that killed four of his buddies, including his best friend. The play is set inside that explosion “in the cacophony of time that gets crammed into the last moment of your life.”

Stan Mayer and Ryan Nebreja – Photo by Meredith Adelaide

In many ways, MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE presents almost like a poem set to the beat of the sounds of war, a surreal landscape punctuated by choreographed motions and occasional dark songs. Scenic designer Elisa Rosin’s set is simple: the skeleton of a dome-like structure offering the actors the opportunity to seclude inside or slip between the bars in patterned movements or perch atop surveying the scene. Joey Guthman’s lighting and Joseph Slawinski’s sound are key to the overall effect of this timeless tale. Athena Lawton’s costumes give abundant clues into the roles each of the principals plays. Above all, the talented actors offer a finely nuanced portrayal of war and its lasting effects. And they can even sing up a storm.

Marguerite French and Julian Juaquin – Photo by Meredith Adelaide

MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE will prove fascinating as a study of the emotional and internal life of people faced with the horrors and violence of war. This is certainly a timely topic right now, what with two larger-scale wars and numerous smaller scale skirmishes in the offing. It may prove difficult for any veterans with combat experience or PTSD.

Julian Juaquin and Hannah Trujillo – Photo by Meredith Adelaide

MAMA MAMA CAN’T YOU SEE runs through December 10, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays (dark 11/23 through 11/26). The Studio/Stage is located at 520 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 818-925-4928 or go online.


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