Producing and directing seem to take up most of Amanda Brinke’s time these days, but getting back on the stage for “ ’night, Mother” was an opportunity she wasn’t going to pass up.
“It’s a play I’ve always wanted to be in,” said Brinke, who shares the stage with Joan Justice in Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play from 1984. “It’s a play that’s very real, and I’ve always felt like it’s a story that needed to be told.”
The Albany Civic Theater production, directed by Nate Beynon, opens Friday and continues for three weekends. Brinke plays Jesse, a distraught young women who tells her mother, played by Justice, that she is going to commit suicide that night by shooting herself with a gun.
“She is troubled, but she turns it inward, unlike so many that don’t that we hear about in the news today,” said Brinke. “I feel like she is a very sympathetic character, and people will understand her journey regardless of whether or not they agree with it. There is a darkness within her that most people can relate to, even though they may not want to admit it.”
’ ’night, Mother’
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 24
HOW MUCH: $15-$10
MORE INFO: 462-1297 or www.albanycivictheater.org
“ ’Night Mother” originally was produced at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., starring Kathy Bates as Jessie and Anne Pitoniak as Mama. That pair kept their roles for the Broadway debut in March of 1983 and both were nominated for a Tony Award. The play was also nominated for Best Play and Best Director (Tom Moore) and, while it didn’t win, it did claim the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1986, Norman adapted her play for Hollywood with Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft in the two major roles.
“It’s been an amazing experience to put on the shoes of this woman and walk around in character,” said Brinke. “I’m having fun exploring the character and exercising my acting muscles.”
When Brinke’s not working in the real estate business, the 13-year Capital Region resident is in charge of ABB Event Productions, which for the past six springs has mounted a production of “The Vagina Monologues” at Cafe 217 on Delaware Avenue in Albany. She produces and directs the event, which serves as a fundraiser for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood.
“I think I prefer acting, but I tend to find myself more in the role of directing and producing,” said Brinke, who lives in Albany. “That’s why I’m enjoying this role so much, but I also feel it’s very important to have a discussion on mental health.”
A continuous dialogue
Norman’s play is a 90-minute, one-act production.
“It’s a continuous two-character conversation,” said Beynon. “I’ve always loved the play. It’s so surprising, it’s exciting and it’s great fun. It’s nothing like what you might expect. It’s also incredibly heartbreaking, which is always fun to do.”
Fun, according to Beynon, because it’s such a great vehicle for two good actresses.
“I think everybody who auditioned could have been cast,” said Beynon. “Any of the talented actresses I might have picked who would then put in two months working on a show like this — it’s not a show that people take lightly — would have worked. The auditions were very challenging, but having said all that I’m really pleased with the cast we have.”
Brinke has previously performed in “Royal Gambit,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” all at Albany Civic. Justice has been very busy on area stages over the last two years, working in “An Ideal Husband” and “Woman in Mind” at Schenectady Civic, “The Oldest Profession” and “Faith Healer” at ACT, and “A Doll’s House” with the Classic Theater Guild.
“They are both amazing and both very original,” Beynon said of Brinke and Justice. “They bring so much of themselves to the parts. I feel really blessed to be working as their director.”
A Pittsfield, Mass., native who moved to Albany eight years ago, Beynon is also an actor, performing most recently with Albany Civic Theater and Confetti Stage.
“I’ve also written a few short plays and a couple have been produced,” he said. “But I’m an actor and a director, and I haven’t had to make that decision yet. I think the two inform each other. I think directing helps make me a better actor, and acting helps make me a better director.”