“Eleemosynary” Tugs At The Heart Strings At Mustard Seed Theatre

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Nancy Lewis as Dorothea and Austen Danielle Bohmer as Echo in Mustard Seed’s “Eleemosynary.” Photo: John Lamb

Not sure how many times local theaters have produced Lee Blessing’s “Eleemosynary” but I’ve seen it several times over the years. The current presentation at Mustard Seed Theatre is definitely one of the best. Three powerful actresses manage to energize us, empower us and tug at the old heart strings.

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Kelley Weber as Artemis and Nancy Lewis as Dorothea in “Eleemosynary” at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

“Eleemosynary” is not an easy play to explain- or pronounce, for that matter. Daughter, mother and grandmother manage to live their lives together and apart. Dorothea, the grandmother, is the eccentric member of the family who, as the show opens, is filming her daughter attempting to fly with one of grandma’s latest inventions- a huge set of wings. When the daughter, Artemis, has her own daughter, Echo, she entrusts her upbringing to Dorothea. Artemis is a restless soul and, in true Auntie Mame fashion, Dorothea makes Echo’s life an adventure.

One of the finest actresses we have in town, Nancy Lewis, tackles the role of Dorothea with relish. With a mix of sarcasm, unflappability and wonderment, she wins the audience over from the start. A long time Mustard Seed actress, Kelley Weber brings a nuance to the enigmatic Artemis. We never fully understand her willingness to give up Echo and her seeming aversion to closeness, but she makes Artemis a fascinating character.

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Three generations- Dorothea, Artemis and Echo in Mustard Seed Theatre’s production of “Eleemosynary.” Photo: John Lamb

Rounding out the cast is Austen Danielle Bohmer as the young Echo. A spelling champion, she tells us of winning her most recent bee with the show’s title- eleemosynary. She is an energetic and bright young actress who brings a lot of Dorothea’s wonderment to the role. This is a remarkable cast who each shine individually but work as a cohesive and tight unit. The audience hangs on every line and movement in this 90-minute spellbinder.

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Austen Danielle Bohmer and Nancy Lewis with the infamous “wings” behind them in “Eleemosynary” at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Doug Finlayson has directed the show with that flair for bringing the best out of each player and moves the play along at a crisp clip. Kyra Bishop’s set design is a flowing mass of levels and blocks that make transitions from one place to another easy and fully understandable. Michael Sullivan’s lighting design enhances the set and action while Jane Sullivan’s costumes add just the right touch.

Artistic Director Deanna Jent and the whole gang at Mustard Seed should be proud of this one. A dynamite cast performing a touching play with heart and soul. Catch “Eleemosynary” at Mustard Seed Theatre through February 21st. Give them a call at 314-719-8060 for tickets or more information.

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