In the Bleak Midwinter

Shetler Studios & Theatres, Manhattan

By Andrew Andrews

Betsy (Abigail Hawk) watches Liz (Jeanne Lauren Smith) learn proper gun handling from Elizabeth (Dorthy Lyman) in Stuffed Olive Inc.’s production of Lyman’s story In The Bleak Midwinter at Shelter Studios’ Theater 54. Original photo by Sally Davis.

There’s an old saying, “mother knows best.”

There’ve been movies about it, songs about it, and at least one book about it. It’s even the name of a brand of kombucha!

But is it true?

In her new play, In The Bleak Midwinter, Emmy Award-winning actor Dorothy Lyman challenges the adage, in the context of an aging grandmother trying to hang on to the family farm in the years after her husband has passed.

If you’re old enough, you may remember Lyman from TV’s Mama’s Family or the long-running daytime serial, All My Children.

Now, Lyman’s playing the senior role, Elizabeth, with Abigail Hawk as her daughter Betsy and Jeanne Lauren Smith (whom we last saw in Rechnitz) as her granddaughter, Liz.

After Elizabeth is mauled by a hog, Betsy appears from the city to convince her to sell the old homestead and move to an assisted living facility in Florida.

But Elizabeth isn’t giving up so easily, and if she can’t convince her daughter (and durable power of attorney) that the house her great-grandfather built of the land is worth keeping, then maybe she can convince Liz and her boyfriend Joshua—or is it Jason?—that it’s a legacy worth saving.

And with the help of her long-time farmhand Christie (Shannon Stowe), the situation looks promising.

Co-starring Tim Bohn as Betsy’s husband Tom and Brennan Lowery as Jason, In The Bleak Midwinter challenges not only the aforementioned adage, but also notions about heritage preservation and “cherishing the past.”

More importantly, it questions the way we treat our elders and the balance between acting in their best interests and our own.

Everyone on the stage performs brilliantly for director Katie McHugh, and the set (Johanna Pan, Lindsey Fuori and Dan Wendel) depicting a farm house kitchen that hasn’t been updated since the 1970s spills out into the aisles without ever breaking the fourth wall.

You can literally even smell the family dinner!

So head on out to Gladstone Farm (by way of Theatre 54 at Shelter Studios) and let this story pull on your heart strings with some good ol’ fashioned family drama.

Then come back here and tell us how it made you feel.

Whether it challenges or confirms your stance on “mother knows best,” or you agree with Tom that there’s “too much estrogen in here,” your reviews help others decide whether In The Bleak Midwinter is worth their time, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!

Andrew Andrews attended In the Bleak Midwinter at Shetler Studios & Theatres in Manhattan on Sunday, September 9, 2018 @ 12:34pm to write this review.