KPBS AIRDATE: October 15, 1992
John Bradshaw tells us that 95% of all families are dysfunctional. So what’s a functional family? Well, “Molly & Maze,” sort of. It’s a mother-daughter arrangement. Single parent family. Always has been. Sure, the mother obsesses about her daughter. She calls her “my religion.” Yup, they’re co-dependent. Both are experiencing separation anxiety, as Maze goes off to college. Both are worried about sex and drugs. The daughter doesn’t do either; the mother relishes both.
But underneath the banter and the mini-battles, beyond the maternal push for Sabbath ceremony, and neo-sixties spouting of Scientology, meditation and macrobiotics, and behind Molly’s surreptitious videotaping of their evening together so Maze can show it to her analyst some time in the future, there’s a palpable pulsing: the rhythmic beat of a deep, profound mutual love. Sounds a little gooey, right? Well, sometimes it is.
But this isn’t just some treacly remembrance of a child and her childhood slipping away. This is a real mother-daughter team playing a real mother and daughter. It’s the continually changing script of an evolving, highly functional relationship.
Molly and Maze are really Lotus and Lili: playwright, TV star and stand-up comedian Lotus Weinstock and her actor-musician daughter Lili Haydn. The piece was originally written by Weinstock four years ago, when Lili was about to leave for Brown University . The first act was a composite of many insightful evenings together.
It’s not clear whether Weinstock really videotaped their interactions, but she has confessed to saving Lili’s lengthy, news-and-poetry-filled phone messages from college. Those form the basis of the newly-created act two, which chronicles Maze’s emerging maturity, independence and sexuality, and Molly’s ongoing struggle for success at standup. One of the bits she does in the show, in fact, appeared in “Wisecracks,” the recent documentary on female standup comedians. It’s hilarious in both venues.
In this very personal play, there’s poignancy for every moment of bathos. For every second of sentimentality, there’s real sentiment. And every “seriosity” is offset by Lotus/Molly’s outrageous, uproarious, but thoughtful and focused humor.
Sometimes, you get the uncomfortable, voyeuristic feeling that you’re peeping through a keyhole. Some of this stuff is perilously close to the bone — certainly for the actors, but also for any parent or child in the audience.
Weinstock is at her absolute best doing what she does best — standup comedy. Haydn is a natural onstage. Except for that nasally whine in her voice, she’s flawless. And when Lotus/Molly plays piano and sings her bittersweet songs, accompanied by Lili/Maze on her mournful, achingly beautiful violin, they’re in perfect harmony.
“I used to want to save the world,” says Molly, and Maze quotes her in her commencement speech. “I used to want to save the world. Now I just want to leave the room with some dignity.”
She does. They both do. But don’t let them leave the city without seeing “Molly and Maze.”
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1992 Patté Productions Inc.