New York | 1h 35m | Already closed

The Mother of Invention

From 14 critic and 76 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Funny, Absorbing

About the show

Abingdon Theatre Company presents the world premiere of James Lecesne's play, an unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s. More…

When Dottie Nerber’s son and daughter arrive to pack up the contents of their mother’s Florida home, their conflicting memories of her collide. As the siblings unpack family secrets, they must separate fact from fiction and are forced to question the narratives of their own lives. 'The Mother of Invention' asks why we tell the stories we do about the people we love, and how we live with those stories after they’ve been debunked.

1h 35m | Already closed | June Havoc Theatre (Midtown W)

NY Theatre Guide

"An exquisitely layered and deeply engrossing play. It’s a powerful look at how we construct the narrative of our lives and how skeletons will always find a way to clatter out of the family secret cupboard. The strong text presents the opportunity for the formidable cast to create captivating characters...I loved every minute of it…Tony Speciale has directed a tight, perfectly paced snapshot of the frayed fabric of nuclear families unraveling." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Dottie has a running commentary with the audience. It is humorous, sarcastic, biting and insightful. James Lecesne’s writing is funny and touching, and though 'The Mother of Invention' is not as good as 'The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,' this play has merit and a lot to think about...In the end the question of what is the quality of life and who gets to make that last decision for us is at stake. Is loving someone helping them let go with dignity?" Full Review

Stage Buddy

"All rough material for sure, but it’s no matter, as the top-notch cast is so captivating, the moment the lights come up, you’ll forget you’re watching a down-and-out family gradually spiral out of control...Tomei, in a league of her own, offers a powerful performance that truly illuminates a mother’s internal — and external — struggle to survive...Davis and Reed both have you hooked for the entire span of their emotional journey." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“Ambitious—if sometimes uneven…A compelling, sprawling comedy that looks at family secrets with an unflinching gaze. Presenting a rare, well-rounded portrait of Alzheimer’s, the show also touches on themes of morality, sustainability, climate change, and the art of dying. It is a smart if imperfect script…At times quite funny and unexpected, the script also occasionally veers into the esoteric, and keeps track of some of the many juggled narratives better than others.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A wildly uncertain mix of sex comedy, family drama, and oddball spiritual contemplation, which never gels into anything coherent... Nevertheless, 'The Mother of Invention' goes down easy, thanks to Tony Speciale's smooth direction, and the fine cast...By the time 'The Mother of Invention' reaches its not really satisfactory ending, one has long since realized that it is a collection of plot points in search of a play. It's as muddled as Dottie's mind, on one of her bad days." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Alas, the new play is not ready for prime time. It’s a grab bag of assorted plot lines...Apparently the playwright thought that if he threw enough darts at the board, some of them would stick...The walls of Jo Winiarski’s set are made of packing cartons, which the characters gradually remove as the play moves along, a process that was not fast enough for me." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"The Abingdon Theatre Company production is filled with intrigue, explored in the soapiest of ways...The capable ensemble was able to find structure within the oft outrageous scenarios...James Lecesne's story is easily predictable. Despite that, it's entertaining. 'The Mother of Invention' is compact yet bursting with story frills. And for some, it's a bit too much." Full Review

Front Row Center

"With director Tony Speciale moving things along at a fast clip, there is never a dull moment. But, while there is humor, there is disappointingly little pathos to be found. In a play about moving out and moving on, few of the characters are very moving at all...More tell than show, Dottie talks often about forgetting, but we rarely see her forget. Indeed, she is so specific and at ease that the moral seems to be that Alzheimer’s ain’t all that bad for the afflicted." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'The Mother of Invention' is hampered by both its attempt to do too many things in a limited space and by none of those things being fresh and/or revelatory. Lecesne, an Oscar winner and celebrated playwright, misses the mark here, being too expository and unfocused. But Director Tony Speciale has brought on a top-flight cast to tackle the emotional fare, and succeeds in rescuing the material, shaping it into a watchable, if seemingly long play." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Dottie may be suffering from severe memory issues...but she seems perfectly at ease chatting about her condition and her children's dilemma. The device is cute for a while but...her being here in spirit, so to speak, quickly becomes a matter of diminishing returns...Well-cast, nicely acted, efficiently designed...and smoothly directed by Tony Speciale. But, given its lack of originality and too frequent triteness, what it lacks most clearly is the magic of invention." Full Review

The New York Times

"The show has potential as a faulty-memory play where the protagonists attempt to reshape their own stories...But this Abingdon Theater Company production, directed by Tony Speciale, is no Greek tragedy. Rather, it awkwardly flits between drama and comedy, and the characters are so cursorily written that the actors are left flailing — the experienced Ms. Tomei can’t dig out much in Dottie besides caustic interjections." Full Review


"Containing uneven performances, straightforward direction and clogged with symbolism, it’s a long 95 minutes...There are one-liners galore, wacky situations and a decidedly campy sensibility. It’s a bunch of superficial antics that never really meaningfully connect...Speciale’s physical staging of the action is fine, but doesn’t achieve the heightened zaniness this self-consciously absurd material, striving for profundity, aims for. The casting for these flimsy characters is problematic." Full Review


“Lecesne is obviously an activist and artist to reckon with. However, his talents seem to wander seriously off-track with his play, ‘The Mother of Invention’…It’s a family comedy with serious intent, but it touches on so many subjects in such scattered fashion, it makes it difficult to get involved with what’s going on…Director Speciale has lavished a fairly solid production on the play’s meanderings, although it may try too hard to add further meaning or symbolism to the proceedings.” Full Review

Oscar E Moore

"A rambling drama/comedy loosely directed by Tony Speciale...Watching this production, where the acting ranges from barely audible to mediocre to excellent, we are reminded of past plays and actors in situations that have been better fleshed out...If you are put off by nudity stay home. If you are put off by writing that doesn’t sparkle stay home as well...The perkiest moments are delivered by Frankie (Dan Domingues)–keep an eye out for this one." Full Review

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing

See it if you like funny family dramas,great acting,you have an interest in alzheimers or aging parents

Don't see it if see it

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Innovative storyline and script

See it if an excellent, creative new theatrical voice, a fabulous cast, very clever set and staging and some plot surprise appeals. Funny and intense.

Don't see it if the reality of aging and Altzheimers, dysfunctional families, and overt sexuality unsettle you. This is no Ozzie and Harriet story.

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if You like intimate theatre that supports new works, want a glimpse into a dysfunctional family coping with Alzheimer's.

Don't see it if You can't sit through a show that has no intermission or if brief nudity bothers you.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Resonant

See it if You like small plays; you're interested in plays about family relationships. You like Concetta Tomei (who is fantastic in this).

Don't see it if Topics like Alzheimer's and aging and illness disturb you too much. You would be offended by brief male nudity.

Also I can't understand why other reviewers didn't like this. I was complet... Read more Read less

Profound, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You are looking for a realistic look at aging with a memory disorder

Don't see it if You are not wanting something classic or very funny

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Quirky

See it if you are interested in family relationship plays, like relevant topics, enjoy intimate plays

Don't see it if you want don't like dark and thought provoking topics

Also An ambitious play about dealing with alzheimer's disease. The siblings... Read more Read less

Clever, Humorous, Thought-provoking

See it if you wish to be entertained by fine acting in a play both serious (Alzheimer's) and slightly outlandish (children and weird neighbors).

Don't see it if you don't want to think about Alzheimer's and need a show with a very neat and satisfying conclusion.

Absorbing, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Great staging

See it if a story of siblings with their own issues dealing with deciding to put their mother in a home and a couple of people with shady agendas

Don't see it if no reason not to see it

Great acting, Confusing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if A compassionate look at a family dealing w/mother w/Alzheimer's & moving her to assisted living. Wonderful acting but confusing plot lines.

Don't see it if Potential for a great show but too many characters w/unclear actions & motives, weird gratuitous nudity, muddied the plot & caused confusion

Clever, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if You are curious about how families deal with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. This show dealt more with the relationship of siblings

Don't see it if It is a topic that you may find upsetting. However, there is humor that helps keep the show entertaining as well.

Confusing, Great acting, Great staging, Slow, Dizzying

See it if You like topics about Alzheimer’s, family, aging, and death. Very solid acting, can be hilarious & sad at the same time.

Don't see it if You don't like male nudity, slow progression of the plot. I have no idea why some kisses happened unexpectedly...

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Confusing

See it if You enjoy plays that realistically portray dysfunctional families and the heartbreak when a parent has Alzheimer's Disease.

Don't see it if You require complete clarity throughout a play. There was some dialogue that I found confusing. If you have an issue with nudity.

Also There is a brief, but very satisfying nude scene : ) The acting is ver... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy a family drama with some unique complications and peppered with humor.

Don't see it if you don't like plays about families.

Funny, Alzheimers suffused, Even includes wacky neighbor, Welcome gratuitous nudity, Set made of packing boxes

See it if experience a gifted cast making the most of tragi/comic material in the MARVINs ROOM vein

Don't see it if Alzheimers, family conflict, cardboard boxes, male nudity, too many lamps, Christmas lights, memory journals, guns, or color alerts irk you

Enchanting, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you want well acted, very off beat drama about family strife with some kooky twists thrown in

Don't see it if a tale of family drama is not your thing, nor seeing a naked man seduce a mother and her son (separately)

Funny, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if If you like quirky off Broadway shows.

Don't see it if You want to sing and dance and have your spirits lifted.

Not bad but not great

See it if you enjoy cliche family drama that is well acted, sometimes funny.

Don't see it if you want new insights into the aging process and family dysfunction.

Contrived, Superficial, Flat

See it if family drama

Don't see it if family drama

Cliched, Dizzying, Clever, Great acting, Interesting set

See it if Don't mind seeing a play about alzheimers and how it affects family members. Concetta Tomei was good as the mother as was the child actress.

Don't see it if If you have a problem with making lite of Alzheimers and you don't like male frontal nudity.

Banal, Cliched, Indulgent, Quirky, Slow

See it if you enjoy seeing shows that have glimmers of unrealized good ideas. This show has so many ideas and is so diffuse that it has zero impact.

Don't see it if you are impatient w/ a meandering plot & some really uneven acting (some are excellent & some are terrible). I often wondered, "why".

Clever, Entertaining, Funny

See it if you enjoy memory plays such as "The Glass Menagerie" and are interested in quirky family dramas with bizarre characters.

Don't see it if you dislike nudity and traditional straight-play fare.

Uneven, Underwhelming, Unhurried

See it if you think that a scattered, aimless plot and pacing might be fitting for a story about Alzheimer's. But there are better Alzheimer's plays.

Don't see it if you'd be frustrated by going back and forth between attempts at dramatic insight and broad comedy, which end up accomplishing neither well.

Cliched, Excruciating, Turgid

See it if you don't mind sitting through one unwarranted woe after the other served up by characters who it's difficult to empathize with. Nonsense.

Don't see it if despite a few wonderful performances, you have trouble watching monologs being performed while holding an urn of dad's ashes.

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy thoughtful pieces about real-life stories. This play really makes you think about aging and age-related illnesses like Alzheimer's

Don't see it if You are looking for a happy, uplifting play. This play is extremely well-acted, but the content is dark.

Great writing, Slow, Great staging, Absorbing, Disappointing

See it if have two hours to spend on a show

Don't see it if you don't like common theme performances.

Cast & Creatives (13)