I took the L Train to First Avenue to get to Theatre 80 on St Mark’s Place where the Negro Ensemble Company is presenting playwright Judi Ann Mason’s play “Daughters of the Mock,” until June 10, 2017.
Directed by Denise Yvonne Dowse, this saga is a bit of a puzzle in its complexities. One that perhaps can only be unraveled by a casting of the runes. Shrouded in mystical tradition, the play follows the line of the matriarch. It is Grandmother MauMau who starts the ritual of the Mock, so named, to represent the grief and suffering MauMau experienced through the abusive treatment of her husband. A pain she felt so deeply she attributed it to the suffering all women experience under the dominance of men. She decides to protect the women in her family against ill treatment by men, albeit taking it to the extreme.
Skilled in knowledge of herbs with some voodo thrown in, MauMau (Edythe Jason) keeps the village and her family in check with the powers she wields, whether by herb, superstition or by fear. Whichever, her power is as real as those who believe in it.
Tied together by respect, family, fear and ritual, MauMau’s daughter Oralia (Brenda Crawley) and granddaughters Amanita and Mandea, portrayed by Kristin Dodson and Claudia McCoy sacrifice love to keep the family tradition of women going.
Whether blessing or curse “The Mock” to the daughters is a yoke, love lost, a grievance they wish to cast aside but it has become so deeply rooted in family tradition that despite their struggles against it, they are bound to it. Its curse mocks them, but despite their heartbreak, inability to break away from its insidious influence results in deadly outcome.
“Daughters of the Mock” is a drama filled with mysteries and concealment. The Mock is a family ritual kept hidden from each daughter in succession until it becomes their turn to learn of and accept the family’s vile secret. Amanita, the youngest, finds herself visiting home and about to be married when she is forced to face the Mock, something unknown and unbelievable to her. Even when her childhood friend Gail, played by Lynne Michelle, reveals to Amanita (who had been attending college), the village gossip about MauMau and the lack of male influence, Amanita does not see the correlation. Although the odd behavior of her sister and mother give rise to suspicion. However, to Amanita’s consternation and frustration no one in her family will confirm or deny the truth of the gossip.
It is not for this journalist to deprive the audience from discovering the secrets hidden within this production set in Louisiana and wrapped in Creole tradition. Whether puzzled, confused, intrigued and/or entertained “Daughters of the Mock,” is worth its unraveling. Go see it!