Tisha Terrasini Banker and Amanda Weier in To the Bone. Photo by Catherine Butterfield
What becomes of mean girls 20 years after their high school heyday? Playwright Catherine Butterfield set out to answer this question, and possibly seek a little art-fueled payback on her own high school bullies. Instead, writing To the Bone became a healing process for her. She fell in love with her flawed characters and guaranteed her audience would, too.
Butterfield also directed this moving show, essentially an entire season of a family dramedy, compressed into two hilarious and heart-warming hours. When To the Bone opens, karma has taken its toll on the aging Kelly (Tisha Terrasini Banker), formerly a “hard girl,” in her South Boston parlance. She’s widowed and financially fraught, with a sullen teenage son, Sean (Jack David Sharpe), who’s interested only in video games, the Red Sox, and hurting his mother.
Kelly and her younger sister Maureen (Amanda Weier) are getting ready to meet the daughter Kelly gave up for adoption a few years before Sean was born. Geneva (Alice Kors) brings along a friend, Darcy (Kacey Mayeda) to document the birth-mother-daughter reunion. Geneva (not what Kelly would have named her) was raised in comfort; she calls Kelly’s blue-collar surroundings “so real.” When Sean is forced to meet his long-lost sister, he enters like a turd plopping into a punchbowl, upping the awkwardness and the stakes.
A good play offers all of its characters room to grow and change, and To the Bone maximizes every opportunity. The talented actors completely inhabit their complex and evolving characters, with Banker owning the show. Geneva complains that her adoptive mother thinks she’s the center of the universe, but Kelly provides the sun around which this group revolves. Banker goes all in: high energy and low class, with deep underpinnings of pain and emotional scar tissue.
(Almost) post-pandemic, theaters are struggling to come back. Ticket sales are low, even for great shows like To the Bone. So do yourself and theater a favor and buy some tickets, get in the car and go.
To the Bone from Open Fist Theatre Company runs through Nov. 5 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. Show times are 8:00pm Fridays through Sundays, 2:00pm and 7:00pm Sundays. There’s also a 2:00pm show on Saturday, Oct. 29. Only. Tickets are $30. There’s a free parking lot just south of the theater in the ATX lot and plenty of street parking. Proof of vaccination and mask-wearing are required.