The problem is as simple as this: Ida has outlived her money. The question is also simple. Who’s going to take care of her now? The answer is “The Treasurer,” an elegant little one-act play by Max Posner that dares to suggest that mothers aren’t always perfect and may, indeed, not always have earned their children’s undying, unquestioning love. Love that doesn’t ask questions like “Who, exactly, is going to PAY for this???”
Onstage now in the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, presented by Jewish Repertory Theatre, “The Treasurer” takes sympathetic views from both sides of an uncomfortable (but not uncommon) family dynamic: Ida, the mom, older and on her own, is at the point where she needs help. All kinds of help. And it is up to her now-adult sons to provide it.
However, this is the same woman who left her family when the youngest boy was 13 so she could have a richer life in Manhattan, where “they spent and spent” and when they had nothing left, they kept on spending.
According to The Son, who narrates the play, his father was broken by this abandonment, and our narrator, the youngest, was left to raise himself. David Lundy, known for elevating local productions by his many performances in supporting roles, disappears so effectively into the title role here that at times one feels like we are eavesdropping on family matters that maybe should remain private.
In his eyes, and ours, we see him as a good man, a good man thrust into an impossible position. How dare Ida think she can continue living happily ever after!
Then we meet Ida. At first, as played by the outstanding Darleen Pickering Hummert, Ida appears to be a self-satisfied woman who is far more interested in appearances than in her fragile financial situation. Soon, however, Posner shows us that Ida is facing challenges far more devastating than a few overdrafts.
Suddenly, it isn’t clear whose side we are on, or even if there really are sides in this story. Posner’s deep dive has us nodding as Lundy’s Son shouts,*
“You are never the one paying!!” at the same time we are cringing when Pickering Hummert’s Ida, embarrassed, tries to finish a store transaction even though she has had an “accident” and really should be finding a restroom.
The design of the action underlines the distance between mother and son. The two are seen living their separate lives, connected only by stressful phone conversations, for the greater part of the play. Actors John Kreuzer and Alexandria Watts fill out the cast with aplomb as The Son’s siblings (by phone) and as people Ida encounters in misguided attempts to be independent. (Give Kreuzer extra credit for his embodiment of the world’s sleaziest pillow salesman. If local audiences were so inclined, he would earn a full complement of “boos” and “hisses”.)
The sure hand of Saul Elkin shows in the play’s direction, with Brian Cavanagh’s expert lighting and vivid sound design by Tom Maker. David Dwyer handled the set design that took the action from “Around Denver, Around Albany NY, and On the telephone” to “And just beyond,” where all debts are settled.
Some shows make you laugh; others go for tears, and a few, like “The Treasurer,” deliver both by simply being real.