Seeking joy and understanding in “My Name is Lucy Barton”

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Seeking joy and understanding in "My Name is Lucy Barton"

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

It’s amazing what can happen when excellent writing and a seasoned stage actress come together to tell a story. That’s the alchemy that happens in “My Name Is Lucy Barton” performed solo by the luminous Laura Linney at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. One actress. A fairly plan static set in a hospital room with a hospital bed and chair (albeit with a gorgeous New York skyline view) and a simple story about a mother and daughter.  Written with wit and supreme insight into the complicated relationship, author Elizabeth Strout weaves a compelling, humorous and poignant tale.

It begins in the hospital room, which Lucy Barton inhabits for 9 long weeks, following a routine operation that inexplicably goes south. Missing being home with her husband and children, she is surprised to be visited by her estranged mother who appears at the foot of her bed.
And so the story begins.

Lucy grew up with parents of little means, financially and emotionally, and tells harrowing tales of her childhood. She is rescued by a college scholarship, marriage, and New York City, miles away from the Midwestern town where she was raised. Her mother is distant and unable to connect, judgmental, gossipy and the personification of the term “passive agressive.” Lucy is warm, honest and the voice of reason. Her mother delights in telling stories about all the neighbors. Lucy likes to share her inner thoughts with the audience.

Laura Linney deftly becomes both women, shifting from nasal mid-western accent to a standard American tone. This theatrical piece, based on the book,  provides the notion to consider that despite being surrounded by darkness, there is always an opportunity to find the light just outside of us.  The play ends on that uplifting note.

“My Name is Lucy Barton”, directed by Richard Eyre, with stunning video design by Luke Halls,  is a wonderful example of how a simple story can, in reality, be very complicated indeed.

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