Theater archives

Close Ties


In the first scene of Elizabeth Diggs’s 1982 Close Ties, a mother inveighs: “I dislike all this analysis and therapy business—people are encouraged to dwell on every little difficulty they can think of, and of course it upsets them, and then they go home . . . and pick a fight!” No psychiatrists appear in this two-act, but even without recourse to the analyst’s couch, three generations of the Frye family spend a weekend in the Berkshires bickering and bemoaning. Much of the trouble centers around Josephine (Judith Roberts), the tart-tongued matriarch, now prey to dementia.

It’s a mystery why Ensemble Studio Theatre would revive this sweet-natured but unexceptional play. But director Pamela Berlin and the actors do seem to enjoy the squabbles, tears, and intensely naturalistic set. The action occurs in the family kitchen, which features a working sink and range. As they argue, the characters brew real coffee, fry real eggs, even make cake batter. The play appeals not to the intellect, but to the appetite. At the top of the second act, when the mother lifts a wonderfully aromatic pan and says, “Would you like any bacon?”, several audience members helplessly cried: “Yes!”