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  • Angela Allyn

DysFUNction at Rivendell

Motherhouse , Tuckie White’s new play, now on view at Rivendell Theatre, is an achingly funny and tragic deep dive into the ties that bind and strangle while papering over the damage with the word Love.

Annie (played with wide eyed complexity by Jessica Ervin) has lost her mother to cancer and she assembles her aunts to help her write the eulogy. Weezie ( brashly played with angst and humor by Meghan Gerachis) arrives with a bloody bag of bones for her dogs and proceeds to guzzle wine, then comes Tucker (petite and controlled Mary Crossin) in pearls and cardigan, next comes grocery bearing Lizzie( played with wounds and kindness by Tara Mullen) who can’t stop feeding people but spits her own food into the trash, and finally Scientologist Barbie ( a balanced and elegant June Baxter Miller) who skipped her own mother’s funeral arrives. They tell stories of their childhood. Each starts out like a beloved family antidote and then goes somewhere you wish it would not. Each of these women has scars and unproductive coping mechanisms. A lot of wine is consumed. You will develop sympathy and affection for their toxic intertwinings. And without blowing the surprise plot twists, lets just say the damage has been passed on to the next generation.

This play is beautiful and devastating and moving and surprising all in 95 minutes with no intermission. Developed by the ensemble whose purpose is to tell women’s stories through a female lens, this is the kind of intimate storefront theater experience that Chicago is known for: coming off of a busy stretch of Ridge, out of the traffic noise, the audience is in for a real treat.

This show was developed during the pandemic by the ensemble,and it features the ensemble members in roles that they can really dig into because of their trust in the ensemble development process. In a transient world there are a wealth of dividends from investing in relationships. This is true in art and in life.

Director Azar Kazemi steered this script with a light enough hand to give us belly laughs but allows it to hit the audience in the solar plexus. Kudos to lighting designer Gabrielle Strong who creates a thunderstorm and passing of days in the black box space.

Motherhouse is running at the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble home space at 5779 Ridge Avenue on Chicago’s north side, Thursdays through Saturdays until May 6, 2023. For tickets and information go to

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