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    Almost Grown Up

    Aviva Jane Carlin, who was widely praised for her star turn in "Sitting Pretty" by Amy Rosenthal at Hypothetical Theatre Company in 2001, returns for one week only, September 9 to 15, in "Almost Grown Up," her solo play about a 46-year-old storytelling Cockney housewife who is still wrestling with mom issues. This touching, wise and hilariously funny play was a hit last Spring at Sacramento Theatre Company, where critics hailed the evening of "little stories with big meanings" as big crowd pleaser. The piece is directed by HTC's artistic director, Amy Feinberg, who also staged the play last April in Sacramento. Aviva Jane Carlin earned a Drama Desk nomination in 1999 for "Jodie's Body" and has carved a niche for herself with performances of distinctive and memorable roles for middle-aged women. In this play, which she originally wrote for herself in 1992, a 40-ish Cockney housewife named Lizzie has gotten into a tiff with her mum on the phone. The experience launches her into an hour-long rumination to the audience about how she has been unable to come to grips with her mother's expectations. There are ample reflections on her marriage, her kids, and everybody's relationship to grandmother. With wit and poignancy, the play reminds us that we need not forever define ourselves merely as we are seen through our parent's eyes. The play is set in the 1980s, with references to punks, the royalty and politics of the decade. Lizzie's husband, Charlie, is a good bloke, but her mother didn't approve of their honeymooning in Greece (it was too sexy for her). Nor does she approve of seeing Lizzie's daughter, Karen, on the telly in news stories about the British peace movement and its no-nukes marches. Lizzie marvels how her kids can seemingly handle their Gran's intrusions with detachment: they actually choose whether to react to her, as opposed to Lizzie, who can't help herself. ("I can hear her voice in my head like I'm five years old," she confides in us, echoing the play's title.) There are ample clues to the formation of Mum's conventional, uptight personality: a boy child preceding Lizzie, who died before she was born; a sister who went through periods of mental instability, and the fragility of Mum's own ex-vaudevillian mother, whose occasional lusty exuberance stood in counterpart to the sad undercurrent which is shared by three generations of Cockneys. The art of the play lies in how Carlin adroitly makes us picture all these personalities, feeding them through Lizzie's discomfiture. The effect is neither preachy nor sad, but there is a warm understanding and deep feeling of authenticity in every word.

    Dates:  Sept. 9, 2002 - Sept. 15, 2002
    Schedule:  Mon., Wed., Thurs. 7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.
    Venue:  Sol Goldman Theater (YM-YWHA), 344 East 14th Street
    Price:  $15 advance, $19 at door
    Tickets/info:  (212) 206-1515


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