Son Feels Guilty For Not Being Able To Love His Aging Mother In ‘The Treasurer’
In Max Posner’s 2017 play “The Treasurer,” a son reluctantly steps forward to manage his aging mother’s finances.
The son, as his character is identified in the play, acknowledges that he does not love his mother, Ida Armstrong, who left her husband and three sons in Denver for a newspaper publisher in Albany long ago. Now her second husband has died, leaving Ida with a lot of debt, but she still happily spends her children’s money. Living in a community of wealthy retirees, some of the few conversations she has are with salespeople as she slowly drifts into dementia.
The son, cast in the role of Ida’s treasurer by his two brothers, also talks to his mother mostly by phone from Denver. But as the play swings between past, present and future, The Son also acknowledges that he believes there is a special level of hell reserved for sons like him who don’t love their mother enough.
Pilgrim Soul Productions will perform “The Treasurer” in its production on November 4, 5, 11, 12 and 13 at the Singh Performance Center at Whitin Mill, 60 Douglas Road, Whitinsville.
“I think a lot of people are going to relate to it,” said Fred D’Angelo, who plays The Son. The cast also includes Lida McGirr as Ida Armstrong, as well as Mark Perry and Aly Whalen in a number of different roles.
Theater veteran Bob Vanasse, who directs “The Treasurer” for Pilgrim Soul, was certainly connected to the play when he saw a production of it at Boston’s Lyric Stage in March 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown.
“My mom was going through dementia, so that really got to me,” Vanasse said. Her mother died in December 2020.
“I had a lot of guilt in my heart for not being as close as I should have been,” he said.
The son has a good life in Denver, is married and knows he is loved by his own son. (The play has a strong autobiographical element from Posner, a Denver native and up-and-coming young American playwright.)
He sees his mother as selfish. In his guilt for having such thoughts, he also sees himself as bound to hell. “In his mind, it’s a trip to hell,” D’Angelo said of The Son’s relationship with his mother and the thoughts they conjure up.
“It’s hard when people have regrets and resentments and can’t let go of them,” D’Angelo said. “According to The Son, his mother didn’t care for him. He felt neglected. People have their feelings, but I also feel like he punishes himself for his feelings, which is unfortunate.”
The Son tells his feelings in the basement of his house because the complexity of thought and feelings makes it a complex role. D’Angelo, who has appeared in previous productions with Pilgrim Soul and other area theater companies such as the 4th Wall Stage Company, said: “It (the son) is one of the most richest I’ve ever played. I’m very honored to do so.”
McGirr has also performed several times with Pilgrim Soul Productions.
“Lida is a very experienced actress and an absolute joy to work with,” Vanasse said.
“Her portrayal of the mother has many layers.” As the piece includes flashbacks and movement in time over a period of about a year, at first “she’s fine, but you can slowly start to see where she has to ask questions. It’s a very slow progression” , said Vanasse.
Indeed, the mother is never shown in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, he says. But a scene where The Son and Ida are actually together (mostly shown interacting on the phone) in a restaurant is awkward, with long silences.
Vanasse said the restaurant scene is difficult to lead. “It’s one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever worked with, (with the characters) not being able to talk to each other.”
“It’s a very difficult scene – the silence,” D’Angelo said.
“The son’s experience is different from the mother’s. It has its own endearing qualities. It has its own sadnesses,” D’Angelo said. The only people she really connects with in “The Treasurer” are the salespeople, he noted.
However, “The Son feels like he’s the only one seeing the real her. Everyone thinks she was wonderful,” D’Angelo said.
“He’s everything his mother ever was,” Vanasse said of The Son. But the Treasurer’s role becomes untenable as he questions his devotion to her.
Meanwhile, another challenge in terms of directing and dramatization is that “70 to 80 percent of the dialogue is characters talking on the phone,” Vanasse said, making it difficult for the actors to interact. He praised Perry and Whalen for their ability to switch roles quickly. “They play the other 12 characters.”
“The Treasurer” can be darkly funny. “Some of the conversations contain humor,” Vanasse said. And Posner doesn’t preach, he says. “I like pieces that present ideas to you but don’t hit you over the head with a hammer.”
The New York Times called the play “tender and unforgiving”.
“I think it’s going to be a great show,” D’Angelo said.
Pilgrim Soul Productions presented their first show in 2007 (Love in the Title by Irish playwright Hugh Leonard) and are known for their thoughtful and entertaining productions of contemporary plays. Matthew J. Carr is the founder and artistic director.
Vanasse said he suggested Carr consider “treasurer.”
“I approached Matt. Matt and I have worked together for 30 years in different capacities. Matt and I have a really good relationship and I feel very comfortable bringing things to him,” Vanasse said.
Although D’Angelo has previously performed with Pilgrim Soul Productions, this is the first production directed by Vanasse.
“I find it really a learning experience — I mean in a good way,” D’Angelo said. “And I’m going to be really sorry when it’s over.”
WhenNov. 4, 5, 11 and 12: 7.30 p.m.; 2 p.m. November 13
Where: Singh Performance Center at Whitin Mill, 60 Douglas Road, Whitinsville
How much: $25; under 18 and seniors (65+), $22. Call (508) 296-0797 or email [email protected] Tickets are also available at the door. Cash or check only. No credit cards, please.