Written and directed by Molly Littman ’21, “In the Pink” explores the complicated relationship between Sarah, a woman with breast cancer, and Rebecca, her 20-something-year-old daughter.
The play’s set was designed to look like a hospital room with get well cards, flu season awareness posters and all. It was effectively minimalist and unfeeling, conveying the uncomfortable and sometimes scary nature of hospitals. But despite the cold and clinical sense that the set projects, the play is filled with nothing but heartwarming, tender and real moments between a mother and daughter. Its content would have felt lively and relatable to any woman with a sometimes infuriating, sometimes incredible, mother.
The show, which was put on by the Production Workshop, alternated between the chemotherapy treatments for older Sarah, played by Samantha Crausman ’19 — where the mother-daughter duo fought about low-cut T-shirts, dyed pink hair and the uncertain identity of Rebecca’s father — and key moments from their relationship that took place in the same hospital over a span of 30 years. These moments included a young Rebecca, played by Kaufman ’22, begrudgingly holding her mother’s hand to make it through a shot at a doctor’s checkup and young Sarah, played by Ruth Miller ’19, holding Rebecca for the first time after giving birth. Little Rebecca was played by a nine-year-old actor.
Littman’s own relationship with female figures in her family prompted much of the portrayal of Sarah and Rebecca’s kinship.
“(I was inspired by) the kind of difficult and complicated nature of being so close to someone but often so frustrated by that same person,” she said. “Mother-daughter relationships are so rich and complex and beautiful and most of the art dedicated to exploring those relationships are, a lot of times, deemed as not serious.”
She said that the depiction of mother-daughter relationships tend to be “frivolous,” in comparison to, for example, Hamlet’s earnest portrayal of the connection between a father and son.
Caitlin Malimban ’21, who portrays an older Rebecca, also discussed her mother’s influence in preparing for her role.
“My relationship with my own mom, which historically has tended to lean toward humor and away from vulnerability, (is) a lot like Rebecca’s relationship with her mom,” Malimban said.
In addition to featuring familial dynamics, “In the Pink” touched on issues of sexual violence. In the second half of the play, Rebecca grappled with the knowledge that she was conceived as a result of non-consensual sex, wondering if her mother resented her or was withholding more information. But as Sarah’s last days approached, the two reconciled, confessing their unconditional love for one another.
For Tina Lu ’19, who saw the play Saturday night, the play served as a reminder that there are parts of her own mother’s life that she does not know about.
“We’ve all had fights with our mother, but … sometimes mothers don’t tell us their own stories or perspectives,” Lu said.
Littman reflected on the ease of collaboration and communication between the staff, who predominantly identifies as female, working both on stage and behind the curtains. Although it was her first time working with PW, she expressed gratitude for what she called “an incredibly smooth and wonderful process.”
“Writing something and seeing it be performed is always an interesting process,” she said. “It’s almost surreal to see these people in front of you, embodying the characters and becoming them.”
PW’s “In the Pink” ran last Friday through Monday at the downspace.