Saturday March 2, I was lucky to get a ticket at Carnegie Stage for Off the WALL Productions U.S. premiere of Mumburger. I have been looking forward to the show since the fall, when I met with Off the WALL Productions artistic director Virginia Wall Gruenert to talk about the company’s 2018- 19 season for PITR. Many Pittsburghers must have felt the same, since both the Friday (opening night) and Saturday evening performances were sold out.
Mumburger is billed as “A surreal new play about grief, parenting and alternative meat.” It certainly fits into the genre of surrealist art, but I’m going to focus on the themes of the play because if processing the play at face value, the themes may be masked by the offbeat characters and bizarre plot Kosar has created.
Mumburger is a story about Tiffany (Jessie Wray Goodman) and her father, Hugh (Ken Bolden) who have just learned that her mother, and Hugh’s wife, has been killed in a car accident. Tiffany, an atypical millennial and restaurant manager who dreams of making a name for herself as a spoken word artist, and her father, a middle-aged pot smoker, don’t have much of a relationship. It is clear that they love one another, but it is also immediately apparent Mum was the glue holding the family together. Mum took care of business and cultivated deep and devoted relationships with both her spouse and child, but not necessarily as a single unit. Now with Mum gone, father and daughter must work together managing the tasks which coincide with death while also processing their grief and learning how to navigate new family dynamics. To complicate matters, a few days after Mum’s passing, a package is delivered to the family’s home. Peering inside, Tiffany and Hugh find several small greasy meat patties. Perplexed, they wonder, who would gift their vegan household with meat. Reading the note attached to the package, they discover Mum left them a final gift, a ‘digestible memorial’ which will continue to nourish the family for a little while longer.
Yes, you are understanding the premise correctly, and, yes, it is strange… Mum had her remains ground into patties for her family’s consumption. The story continues as both Tiffany and Hugh wrestle with the idea of cooking and eating their beloved. It is a wretched and freaky idea. As they begin to comprehend what Mum is asking of them, Tiffany and Hugh traverse through the stages of grief, leaning on one another, sharing stories, hugs and uncovering small idiosyncrasies they never before realized they shared.
Kosar’s characters are completely genuine. Despite an unconventional plot, watching Hugh and Tiffany struggle through their emotional anguish—bouncing between needing one another and needing to be alone—is to watch an honest portrayal of the grief process. More honest than the account of grief is Tiffany and Hugh’s relationship. Director Robyn Parrish has designed a delightfully satisfying dance between Tiffany and Hugh, and Goodman and Bolden have mastered its’ choreography. Watching Goodman and Bolden interact really is like watching a dance. They move across the stage, circling one another, in melodramatic movements and explosive emotion. Parrish’s direction solidifies the audience engagement.
Kosar’s dialogue fulfills an in the moment impression. Goodman and Bolden intrinsically execute father-daughter banter. I especially enjoyed Tiffany’s spoken word pieces and Goodman’s emotive command of the stage when delivering.
Mumburger is now. It’s artistically relevant and facetious and so very original. Mumburger is intriguing, connected and a skillful dramedy. A truly fascinating work of art.
There are two more weekends to catch the show, but don’t hesitate, tickets are selling fast. For more info, check out off the WALL’s site.
Photo Credits: Heather Mull
Megan Grabowski works full time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but for fun she enjoys volunteering, as a trustee for the Crafton Public Library Board, the Girl Scouts and as a contributor to Pittsburgh in the Round. Megan grew up attending community theater performances with her parents and relishes the escapism and adventure live productions provide. Now, a mother to 2 teenage daughters, Megan is thrilled to see her girls enjoying live shows, performing on stage and creating playlists of their favorite showtunes. To keep up on writing trends, news and cool cultural stuff, follow Megan on Facebook @mjgrabowskiwordsmith
Categories: Archived Reviews