Near the end of The Treasurer, on stage now at Jewish Repertory Theatre’s Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre in Getzville, the titular character reminds the audience that people don’t determine the length of their lives. While that may be debatable (spoiler alert: there are some suicidal ideations in the story), people can and do determine how their lives will be lived.
For Ida Klein Armstrong, that means she will live a life of excesses that are beyond her meager means and it’s her three sons (products of her first marriage) who are keeping her in the manner she believes she deserves…in a combination of duty, guilt, and -perhaps – some residual love.
This is strong stuff in playwright Max Posner’s script. While there are a few (precious few) moments that may bring a smile, this is a piece that may ring too close to home for some. Another spoiler: see it anyway. Let it gnaw your conscience and redirect your senses. Perhaps make you better at loving and compassion, even when hoisting your own baggage.
That being said, the cast for this production is remarkable. David Lundy is the son who bears the burden of his mother’s life and takes control of her finances. He’s the lead storyteller and in this way, the show is his 90-minute non-stop monologue. He’s expressive, he’s fierce, he’s prescient in describing his own eventual demise, and while some corner of his heart may hold some love for his mom, the reality of dealing with her life choices over time occupies more space there. The subtle moment when he tosses the obligatory “love you” goodbye to his mom – as she says “I love you” and repeatedly asks him to “add the I” – is followed by a string of “I” statements. Yes, this son chooses where to insert a pronoun. Poignant script writing here and Lundy’s execution is marvelous.
Darleen Pickering Hummer is Ida the mom. Charming and loveable to store clerks and telemarketers (and the sons who still feel the wounds of her earlier abandonment), she is also manipulative and demanding. And then dementia begins robbing her mind and judgment. Pickering Hummert’s performance is exquisite in its inherent sadness and bewilderment as the life she had is leaving her. While she’s superbly acting this role, there’s that jolt of reality that reminds us that her situation – the loneliness, humiliation, dependence on her sons, the loss of her faculties – is all too real. Her gorgeously expressive face will linger in your thoughts.
John Kreuzer and Alexandria Watts appear in a variety of supporting roles, as store clerks and siblings and a particular significant other, both flexing their versatility chops in all good ways. As always, they are joys to watch on stage.
In one brief scene, the son and one of Watts’ characters meet on a plane and off-handedly discuss Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. In reflection, The Treasurer is a bit of a nod to this story, where the son is the reluctant caregiver to his mom and her delusions.
Set designer David Dwyer kept the stage pristine, as is JRT’s wont. Single and strategically placed chairs and a table were all that was needed. Tom Makar dropped in some well-timed ambient noises when Lundy described his character’s bike riding, and Brian Cavanagh’s lighting punctuated key moments. Director Saul Elkin knit these bits together to be stark, strongly emotional, and the kind of theatre that is occupying your head hours after you leave.
The Treasurer runs 90 minutes long with no intermission until February 27. Find information and ticketing at https://www.jccbuffalo.org/jrt/.