Mother Lode at Off the Wall Productions | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Mother Lode at Off the Wall Productions

A biographical play explores a mother-daughter relationship

Linda Haston in Mother Lode at Off the Wall
Linda Haston in Mother Lode at Off the Wall
Hats. They’re what strike the eye immediately upon entering Off the Wall Theater’s curtainless production of Mother Lode. Artistic director Virginia Wall Gruenert’s latest world premiere packs a lot into a one-woman one-act with a multi-layered title that suggests a rich vein of material, various loads (of guilt, grief, gumption, etc.) and so much more.

The biographical play stars Linda Haston as herself and as her mother, Ruth, at various times in their lives both together and separately, from the latter’s childhood in the Jim Crow South to the former’s post-funeral ruminations. Yes, their lives and their outlooks are radically different. They clash. But the bond persists long after death.

Haston smoothly morphs into the many ladies of Lode: the spirited newcomer to the Hill District, the willful girl who wants to follow her own ambitions, the hard-working landlady, the daughter passed over for her brother, the patient and the caregiver struggling with dementia — strong, independent and devoted women. While I might not necessarily share many details of the Hastons’ lives, I can certainly recognize and empathize with so many aspects of their relationship. Most mothers and daughters probably will.

Assisting the generational transformations, both literally and spiritually, are those hats. Effective enough as props and costumes, these “crowns” really adorned the head of the late Ruth Haston in life, giving Mother Lode a special provenance. Linda Haston also provided the costumes. The single well-appointed set, designed by Adrienne Fischer, evokes the many places in the Hastons’ lives over the years. Subtle sound design by Ryan McMasters complements the scene.

Directed by Gruenert and Spencer Whale, Mother Lode mines the complexities and joys of the mother-daughter relationship, with many a laugh, a few tears, and certainly a sigh of remembrance. 

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