Encore Michigan

‘Anatomy Of A Hug’ at Tipping Point embraces mother-daughter love

Review August 02, 2019 David Kiley

NORTHVILLE, MICH.–It can be hard to see yourself in one of your parents. If you don’t like who you are, and don’t like what you see in an aging mother or father, then it’s easy to fade away into the shrubs of life.

In Anatomy of A Hug, a play by Kat Ramsburg now playing at Tipping Point, here, Amelia, played by Dani Cochrane, is an angry fund-raiser for an organization modeled after Save The Children, a job that has her talking to people in the U.S. asking them to sponsor a child overseas.

The story opens with Amelia receiving her Mother, Sonia (Sandra Birch) into her apartment–just released from prison with Stage-4 cancer to die outside from prison and with her closest living relative. There is tremendous animosity coming from Amelia at Sonia who left her when she was little and landed in prison. Cochrane is hardened, but shows a softer center just enough in Ramsburg’s writing to set her character up later in the story.

Part of what leads Amelia to a softer place is Ben, her co-worker, played by Michael Lopetrone. To the credit of both Lopetrone and the playwright, Ben is not just persistent-office-guy crushing on Amelia, he is more textured than that and he is caring enough and smart enough at his core to crack her iron curtain while maintaining his dignity. His slight goofiness is endearing.

Birch is penetrating as Sonia. She did something to land in prison that Amelia can’t forgive, and she strikes a very effective balance between the harsh mothering inmate on the outside for the first time in many years, and Dani’s mother. She is grating and sad, disruptive and yet has an unmistakable mother’s heart.

Tiffany Alisha King is Iris, the corrections social worker who got Amelia to take her in. She comes by from time to time to watch Sonia when Amelia is away. She is a spirit between mother and daughter, giving them each knowing nudges toward one another’s hearts.

Set design and projection design by Jennifer Maiseloff worked very well in The Tipping Point space, making the idea of a big projection TV in Amelia’s living room seem a real part of the story. Costume design is by Katherine Nelson.

What makes Hug so engaging is the fraught situation that the playwright gives us and the slow unraveling of the history that has created it. Family grudges are thick and ugly. But the story speaks to the responsibility we have to the family we are born with, not just the family we choose.

Director Beth Torrey honors the good writing and chose a superb cast of actors to make it come alive. The title is also clever as it speaks to how difficult it can be some times for some people with certain histories to hug, and be hugged.

And the whole production reminds us just how powerful a hug can be in the healing process.