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"Mother" will make you laugh then cringe with horror

A play like "Mother" ("Matka"), showing at the Astorka Theater, has not been staged in Slovak theater for a long time. Promoted as "social horror in two acts," the story has strong black humor that will make audiences both laugh and cringe in horror at the same time. The story is one that everyone can easily identify with: a controlling mother who inflicts pain, but with love.
"When I read the play for the first time, I thought it was horrible," related castmember Vladimír Hajdu. "But the second time, I thought it was very funny. We had to go through the play a few times so that we could laugh at ourselves, get it out, and then finally actually rehearse." Zuzana Kronerová, who plays the double-edged "Mother," had a different reaction from her initial readings. "When I first read the play I laughed a lot. It was fun," she said. "But the more times I read it, the more serious it became and it seemed more and more like a tragedy."


Portrait of a mother, played wonderfully by Zuzana Kronerová.
Ron Severdia

A play like "Mother" ("Matka"), showing at the Astorka Theater, has not been staged in Slovak theater for a long time. Promoted as "social horror in two acts," the story has strong black humor that will make audiences both laugh and cringe in horror at the same time. The story is one that everyone can easily identify with: a controlling mother who inflicts pain, but with love.

Theater Review

"When I read the play for the first time, I thought it was horrible," related castmember Vladimír Hajdu. "But the second time, I thought it was very funny. We had to go through the play a few times so that we could laugh at ourselves, get it out, and then finally actually rehearse."

Zuzana Kronerová, who plays the double-edged "Mother," had a different reaction from her initial readings. "When I first read the play I laughed a lot. It was fun," she said. "But the more times I read it, the more serious it became and it seemed more and more like a tragedy."

Without giving away too much about the suprises that await spectators, the stage is set in a poor family home, in which the "Mother" maintains control over all the family members by insisting that her way is the best and only way.

Every character is flamboyant and each walks a fine line between reality and surreality, just tip-toeing on the side of believability. Theater-goers see their own mother in "Mother," played superbly by Kronerová, or their father, played quite grandiosely by Boris Farkaš. Their son, played by popular "Apropo" comedian Miro Noga, is subservient but ambitious when he brings his girlfriend, played by "Kolja" actress Silvia Šuvadová, to dinner. What follows is chaos and calamity.

Instrumental characters on the periphery that fateful evening are Betuľa, a sex-craved maid excellently played by Hungarian actress Szidi Tóbiás, and "Grandpa," played by Ľudovít Moravčík, who is an outlandish caricature of Uncle Fester. But the show stealer is Vladimír Hajdu as "Zoban," a friend of "Father," who occasionally brings news to keep his aging friend abreast of worldly goings-on.

Loving looks can kill

"What I like the most about this play is that the characters kill each other with a loving look in their eyes," said Hajdu while sipping a post-show ice tea. "It's common to see people who are having terrible thoughts with a smile on their face. I've never read a play like this before."

"It's a very difficult genre to do," said "Mama" Kronerová. Director Juraj Nvota, who has worked over the years on countless theater and film productions, chose the play because it was completely different from anything he had ever done before.

"Juraj usually chooses plays that have typical themes, like good versus evil; but this time he finally went into a completely different genre," said Hajdu. "Fortunately, (the main character) isn't anything like my mother. But after rehearsing a few times I started to see some of my neighbors; some of these other old, bad mothers." Kronerová definitely portrays with feeling that the "Mother" is trying to do the best thing for her family.

As for those who don't speak Slovak coming to see the performance, Kronerová summed it all up by saying, "In my experience, when I see theater in a foreign language abroad, the most important thing is if it is good theater or not. I couldn't say anything more to theater-goers to prepare them, because I wouldn't want to spoil the suprise. Just take a look and enjoy."

"Matka" ("Mother") plays at the Astorka Theater at Suché mýto 17, near the Hotel Forum in Bratislava. Check the Sights & Sounds Calendar for times or call Astorka at 533-840.

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