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Review: Mom's a drag in lively 'The Silver Cord'

Wednesday - 6/12/2013, 5:53pm  ET

This theater image released by Jim Randolph Media Relations shows Dale Carman, left, and Victoria Mack in Sidney Howard’s "The Silver Cord," currently performing off-Broadway in a Peccadillo Theater Company production at Theatre at St. Clement’s. (AP Photo/Jim Randolph Media Relations, Carol Rosegg)

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Haul out the evil mother-in-law jokes; Mrs. Phelps is a real doozy.

A mother's selfishness can take many forms, but dramatist Sidney Howard (screenwriter for "Gone With the Wind") created a real monster in his 1926 domestic drama, "The Silver Cord." His manipulative Mrs. Phelps, a long-widowed, middle-aged mother of two adult sons, gives new meaning to the term smother.

The title of "The Silver Cord" refers to the umbilical cord (translation: money) that the narcissistic widow uses to cripple her sons' independence and bind them to her side.

Peccadillo Theater Company has mounted a condensed, well-done revival with a twist: The mother is played by Dale Carman, in drag. This conceit has worked well in recent plays when the character is played comically, but director Dan Wackerman has Carman play the role seriously. Carman is very good at enacting a woman, but by playing it straight -- so to speak -- he slightly distracts from the genuine and lively drama unfolding.

Effeminate and genteel, eyes darting about with barely-concealed malice, Carman makes a delicate grimace of delight whenever Mother scores a devious point in her machinations to trick her sons into staying near her. If that means getting rid of annoying fianc
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