“Painting Churches” Portrays Family Dysfunction

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(L-R): Diane Frank, Edgar Mastin and Krisztina Koltai in “Painting Churches.”

(L-R): Diane Frank, Edgar Mastin and Krisztina Koltai in “Painting Churches.”

A story of family connection and heartbreak, Painting Churches reveals the troubled interactions of a Boston Brahmin family as they deal with aging and health issues. Thought-provoking and moving, the production is an artistic success.
Mags Church (Krisztina Koltai), a promising artist, comes home to help her aging parents Gardner and Fanny (Edgar Mastin and Diane Frank), move from their Beacon Hill home to their Cape Cod cottage. To her dismay, she discovers that her gentle, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet father is growing increasingly senile and her narcissistic, abrasive mother is cracking under the pressure. The people-pleasing daughter attempts to celebrate her parents as she also ruthlessly examines her roots.
Director Kappy Kilburn creates artful compositions in her staging, reflecting the dislocation between the elderly couple and their tentative daughter, and revealing how perspective changes over the years.
Opening night jitters seemed to overtake the cast in the first act before they settled into a comfortable rhythm in the second. The play also possesses its own pacing between acts, beginning rather nimble and lighthearted, gradually becoming serious and cathartic.
Mastin does an outstanding job bringing the aging writer alive. Deadpan and understated, he makes Gardner’s decline even more tragic. Koltai reveals a delicate vulnerability to the ambitious artist. Frank grows in her role, bringing a brittle abrasiveness to the selfish mother.
A touching story of family dysfunction and fractured relationships told in gentle brush strokes, Painting Churches reveals the joys and heartbreaks of dealing with aging parents.

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