When Lucy speaks like her mother, it is with a kind of descriptive physical shorthand, which evokes sharp edges and a nasal sound. The cartoon in imitation underscores the distance between what Lucy came and what has become. But now, in extremis, all Lucy wants is mom, and she wants mommy to tell her stories.
And although she begins reluctantly, Lucy’s mother turns out to be a Scheherazade from the corn country, with successive stories of local women who aspired above her post and generally had poor results. They are familiar stories and yet completely different from each other, with surprising details that suggest the perversity of agitated souls who misinterpret their own intentions.
“People,” says Lucy, amazed, after her mother finishes an anecdote about a fugitive wife. His mother echoes “People.” It is a magnificent moment of fleeting complicity between mother and daughter.
As for the subjects closest to his home in Amgash, Illinois, especially Lucy’s tormented father, his mother neglects those with discomfort and disapproval. It is up to your daughter to fill those gaps for us, with stories of the kind of numbing, oppressive and overtly abusive existence that so many people accept as a life sentence.
Lucy did not, however. Why? In short, her career from childhood to university, marriage and motherhood and, ultimately, towards a career as a successful fiction writer. It seems one of those inspiring stories of survivors, of success against wind and tide, which are regularly packaged for mass consumption.
But Lucy conveys an air of permanent surprise that all this happened to his. Linney’s presence here is deferential, almost shy. From the moment she enters, walking quickly and talking vigorously, you feel that a conscious power and self-preaching is required for her to tell us all this.
But when Lucy says she has become ruthless, as those who first knew she wanted to be a writer told her she would have to be, we believe her. This means that the truths he is saying hurt us and her. And, of course, they are not the whole truth.
But are we not grateful for the alchemical and unquantifiable mix of factors that allows this woman, embodied by this actress, at this time, in this place, to share with us so quickly what she knows, or even thinks she knows? When Lucy says, with satisfaction that is greater than happiness, that “my whole life surprises me”, we feel exactly what she means.
My name is lucy barton
Tickets Until February 29 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater; manhattantheatreclub.com. Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes.