Cause of Failure

Photograph: Christine Drew Benjamin
Megan Weaver has issues. And because she has issues, she has turned them into a play called Cause of Failure, a sort of writerly therapy session populated with characters and stuck on a stage. The piece addresses the author's relationship with her mother, who seems to have spent the formative years of her daughter's life slowly dying from a heart condition. Maggie (Lauren Weinberg), as she's called in the play, abandons her path as a budding writer to become a caregiver for her mother (Sally Burtenshaw), and the story she tells is as much about self-denial as family tragedy. In grappling with this unfair thing that has sabotaged both women's lives, Weaver turns the stage mom's defective ticker into a separate, gasping, hiccupping character (Louiza Collins) in a bright-red evening gown—as if the heart itself could be pulled out, scrutinized and shouted blame at. Weaver's story teeters unsteadily between self-absorption and self-revelation. Maggie starts out as a thinly drawn character; although she gamely attends school and writes, it isn't clear that she has a genuine passion for writing—or anything else that she is being denied. Our burdened hero just wants a little credit for her sacrifices. Luckily, Cause of Failure isn't a total pity party. As mother, daughter and organ approach a climax, this confined story turns out to have larger aims. It becomes about resentments, consolations and last chances. It wears its heart, finally, on its sleeve. (Visit our Fringe Festival page for more reviews, and fringenyc.org for more information.)—Joshua Tanzer
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