Lord of the Underworld's Home for Unwed Mothers Review - A Slice of Shameful History

Award-winning playwright Louisa Hill said it all:

“What does choice mean if you’ve got no other options? To me, the play is about considering the heartbreaking consequences of following the rules at the cost of family.”

Talented director Tony Abatemarco clearly understands where Louisa Hill is coming from and helms this tale with a gentle but firm hand. For this is the story of a teenager who finds herself pregnant and unwed in 1964 – a time when such goings-on were shameful and kept a secret from the community. Gentle and innocent Dee (Corryn Cummins) is shipped off to a home for pregnant teens run by nuns. The cost of staying there in secrecy for the critical months before birth? The baby.

Corryn Cummins and Amy Harmon - Photo by Ed Krieger

But Dee doesn’t want to give up her baby girl. Yet the rigid norms of the time win the day, and Baby Cora is adopted by “a deserving family…for a better life.” While Dee’s pain must be masked under a host of lies about her “absence” from home for a few months and her current depressed state.

Adrian Gonzalez and Corryn Cummins - Photo by Ed Krieger

Meanwhile, what happens to Baby Cora? It just so happens that her new mother can’t warm up to her – so Cora must be returned and shipped off to a new set of adoptive parents in her infancy. She seems to get along well with her super-religious new parents for a few years – but then the question of abuse pops up – and again Cora is shunted off for another adoption. Number three seems to be going well – until her adoptive mother gets pregnant with her own child. The fur flies, and Cora is off for a series of foster placements.

Adrian Gonzalez, Corryn Cummins, and Amy Harmon - Photo by Ed Krieger

While Dee laments her forced decision, Cora grows up and becomes Corie (Michaela Slezak), a heavy-metal enthusiast for whom nihilism is the only way to understand the world. What happens when these two women meet 25 years after her birth? You’ll have to see this intense and intriguing play to find out.

Michaela Slezak and Adrian Gonzalez - Photo by Ed Krieger

The pain is almost palpable as these two “star-crossed” women try to understand their personal worlds within the framework of the rigid societal norms of the day. With superb acting, Dee and Corie cross the line from characters in a play to two very real people who are hurting. They are amply supported by Amy Harmon and Adrian Gonzalez, who portray the various men and women they encounter during the different stages in their lives. Their plight is further enhanced by the background tones supplied by Marylin Winkle’s cello.

Adrian Gonzalez, Amy Harmon, and Michaela Slezak - Photo by Ed Krieger

Cindy Lin’s scenic design is simple, offering only a suggestion of the environment and keeping the focus on the people who share the same moments in time. The entire production team does a strong job of keeping the muted background where it belongs – in the background. Touches of humor occasionally slip out, offering respite from the penetrating, powerful dynamics - until the next tsunami.

LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD’S HOME FOR UNWED MOTHERS runs through May 28, 2017, with performances at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Tickets range from $15 to $39. For information and reservations, call 213-761-6061 or go online

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