An acerbic dialogue between two generations of women, an unmarried mother and her unmarried daughter who look back on their lives under dictatorship and democracy. They try to work out what went wrong as they endeavoured to measure up to the expectation that they would marry and live happily ever after.
We are introduced to the character of the Mother as a Blanche Dubois-like figure, dressed for an occasion but with nowhere to go. She is a figure of faded glamour who harks back to a bygone era because she is unable to accept the truth of aging. Her daughter is in her forties, frumpy and clumsy. As her mother dreams hazily about the past, the daughter, in contrast, inhabits a frustrated and acrid present.
The set evokes ‘marital stability’ as mother and daughter engage in ironic and sarcastic exchanges about their lives as unfulfilled single, and therefore invisible, women. A wedding dress repeatedly appears on stage, suspended and hovering like an apparition which haunts the play and the relationship between mother and daughter. The mother dreams of the wedding dress but, by withholding her description of the dress, she refuses to allow her daughter to fully imagine it.
The dialogue is steeped in nostalgia about popular culture of the past: television, cinema, Carlos Gardel songs and brands of cigarettes and sanitary towels. This inventory of objects and cultural references builds a picture of Venezuela’s past, of the years of Juan Vincente Gómez’s dictatorships and the subsequent rule of Marcos Pérez Jiménez and democracy, as well as dramatising the grotesque nature of the roles and expectations imposed on women.
The first production of Vida con mamawas staged by El Nuevo Grupo in 1975 and was awarded the Premio del Concejo Municipal del Distrito Federal in Caracas. The play was widely critically acclaimed and went on tour in Venezuela between 1976 and 1978. The play has had several subsequent revivals in Venezuela.
Lerner, Elisa. 1976. Vida con Mamá. Caracas, Monte Ávila
Lerner, Elisa. 2004. Teatro Elisa Lerner. Caracas, Editorial Angria
Klein, Dennis A. 1987. ‘The Theme of Alienation in the Theater of Elisa Lerner and Isaac Chocrón’, Folio, 17, 151-66
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 13 April 2012.