Mother Love

Going to St. Ives takes two women on a troubling journey between good and evil

The answer, of course, is one. The man, his wives, the sacks and cats are coming from St. Ives. The speaker is on the way there. Using this in the play's title is the playwright's not so subtle clue that the simplest answer is sometimes the correct way to solve what sounds like a complex problem. It's also his way of asking if there will be one or two women returning to that cozy parlor in St. Ives.

Like the riddle, Going to St. Ivesappears to present a complicated set of dilemmas, when really the answers turn out to be so simple. The characters have to see that for themselves, so the clever playwright makes sure one's an eye doctor and the other's going blind. What's seen and not seen are important elements here. It's a two-woman play that still feels heavily populated by men, even if the men the women constantly talk about remain offstage. Cora has disconnected from her husband in the first act, too torn up by their son's death to keep the marriage going. She's divorced from him by the second act, and her devotion to May hints at something closer to romantic love. May's son, the bloodthirsty young tyrant still partial to his mother's cooking, seems to lurk nearby in every scene, as does the odd, menacing bodyguard. Men don't come off well in this one. Through his strong female characters, Blessing implies that men deserve the blame for a lot of bad stuff in the world--whether it's the tragic decision to take a child to a basketball game in a dicey neighborhood or declaring, as the dictator does, that "75 percent of the population are traitors" and ordering mass murders. Such things could be avoided, Blessing seems to say, if only the world were run by women willing to talk things out over a nice cup of tea.

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