Photo by Darrett Sanders
By Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Growing up as a confused 'ugly duckling' in the shadow of a spectacular mother can be challenging for any girl (or boy for that matter!). Of course, if your mother also happens to be a former beauteous Miss America and the first and only Jewish Miss America to boot...well, that's a lot to live up to!
Writer/performer Barra Grant is back with her true and darkly comedic tale of her awkward and stressed relationship with her mother Bess Myerson, famous for numerous accomplishments that include being New York City's first Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, a close advisor to Mayor Ed Koch and a national spokesperson against anti-Semitism - until she became infamous in her 50's with her Mafia boyfriend for a judge-bribing scandal, which polarized her life forever afterward.
As solo shows go, it's easy to digest. Barra has a distinguished talent for writing. As a presentation though, Miss America's Ugly Daughter comes across a tad too much like a one-sided
Mommy Dearest vanity vent (minus the physical abuse of which there is none in Barra's stated history), too "studied" in the performance itself.
Bess Myerson and Barra Grant
Photo courtesy of Pageant Productions
There is a lot of humor. Although much of it borderline offensive to those ears who are not keen for the truth of how castigating mothers can be to their daughters in language and attitude. Barra takes the brunt of her narcissistic mother's anxieties, failings and sexual fantasies (unfortunately) from birth to (her mother's) death. Barra never lives up to her mother's expectations from her hair to her weight and Bess is regularly derisive, subtle and not. In order to deal with life at home, Barra goes along with all the seeming insanity without rebelliousness, feeds on a diet of Sylvia Plath and other dramatic literary works, eventually begins to write on her own, and downright surprisingly, meets her true love.
The shining moment her life, and the truly sweet reward of the play is Barra becoming a mother herself and realizing that she can be a parent who can deeply love and include her own daughter in all the ways she never had with Bess.
Not a tearjerker. A bit lethargic. But entertaining.
THERE SHE IS, MISS AMERICA
From "The Miss America Pageant"
There she is, Miss America
There she is, your ideal
The dream of a million girls who are more than pretty can come true
in Atlantic City
Miss America's Ugly Daughter runs thru March 24 at Greenway Court Theatre, with performances Saturdays and Mondays at 8pm; Sundays at 6pm. Tickets are $40 on Saturdays and Sundays and $25 on Mondays. Every Monday is "Mother-Daughter Monday": mothers and daughters can buy-one-get-one-free. Tickets for students and seniors are $20 at all performances
The Greenway Court Theatre is located at 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Free parking is available on-site. To purchase tickets, call (323) 285-2078 or go to MissAmericasUglyDaughter.com.