A timely ‘Memory House’ plays at Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Believe me, I’ve had my share of pie-baking fails. And I’ve raised two teenagers and sent them both off to college. So, I couldn’t help but both smile and squirm throughout the Lake Dillon Theater Company’s current production of Kathleen Tolan’s play Memory House.

Watching Kelly Ketzenbarger (playing the mother Maggie) brilliantly bake a pie in real time while single-handedly reciting most of the play’s lines was not only exhilarating, but quite impressive! I couldn’t tell if her constant squinting at the recipe to read the same thing repeatedly was part of the slightly comedic acting or truly because she forgot where she was in the pie making process. The genuine mess she makes on the real-to-life kitchen stage reminded me of why I hate baking pies — but I digress.

Directed by Josh Blanchard, this is a two-woman play about an all-too-common mother-daughter relationship, save for a few interesting sub-plots. It takes place one New Year’s Eve: The daughter’s college application essay is due at midnight that night and Ketzenbarger’s character tries desperately to help her daughter while steering as clear as she can from her business. We learn Katia (Kinsey Lahn) is struggling with several unanswered questions about her own adoption from Russia. This part of the story left me wanting to know more. As teenagers like to do, Katia blames her mom for just about everything. This part of the story I already know.

For her part, Lahn does a commendable job staying in character — full-on teenager angst mode — emoting primarily through facial expressions to convey everything from being annoyed by her mom, to being aloof and disinterested, to downright angry.

The baking of the pie seems utterly symbolic of Maggie’s experience raising her daughter. Full of hopes and dreams in the beginning, lots of questions and second-guesses throughout the process, but ending up with one big beautiful, messy, and imperfect pie in the end representing plenty of love.

With the current political situation in Russia, the play is more topical than ever. So, it left me thinking plenty about politics, but also about international adoption, motherhood, identity, and childhood memories; and the joy of watching Ketzenbarger bake a pie alone is well-worth the price of admission.