Ki Gottburg

By Ann McCreary

On a winter night a mother works at baking her first pie, as her18-year-old daughter struggles to complete a college admissions essay. As the evening unfolds, the complexities of family relationships and memories are explored in conversations between mother and daughter.

The Merc Playhouse presents a Readers’ Theater production of Memory House this weekend, directed by Ki Gottberg in her first outing as the Merc’s new artistic director. Performances are Friday and Saturday (Sept 20 and 21) at 7 p.m.

Gottberg describes Memory House as “gentle and delicate,” while dealing with sometimes-painful issues. The mother is trying support her daughter and cope with a recently ended marriage, while her daughter is questioning her adoption from Russia.

“It really is a play about parenting, and a play about how much we are made of memory,” Gottberg said. “It’s about the tension between a parent and child. There is tension, but a lot of love. How the love is wound into the script is what I find interesting.”

The play “will be of special interest to parents,” Gottberg said. “But I also think it would be pretty interesting to teenagers, 14 and up.”

The performance features Bo Thrasher as the mother and Morgan Tate as the daughter. Gottberg said she will lead discussion sessions after the performances with the audience.

The staged reading of Memory House was chosen by former artistic director Julie Wenzel, “and I was glad to have it as the first thing on my docket,” said Gottberg.

Readers’ Theater productions, in which plays are read dramatically but not fully staged, are valuable and entertaining for a number of reasons, Gottberg said.

“First and foremost is to give people in the valley the chance to explore a range of different kinds of plays … so we can consider those plays for full productions,” she said. “It gives actors in the valley who don’t have time to commit to a full rehearsal process the ability to work on things. It’s a great way to break into theater. You’ve got the script in your hand.”

She said these productions are also appealing because of their simplicity. “There’s something kind of elemental about it. It doesn’t have all the trappings,” she said.

The audience is drawn into the play by the words of the playwright and the delivery of the actors. “What really enlivens the performance is having someone to tell it to,” Gottberg said.

Memory House was written by Kathleen Tolan. Admission to the Readers’ Theater is by donation.