Genuine, truthful performances by two pre-teen girls do a lot to get the best out of Marilynn Barner Anselmi’s world -premiering Mama’s Girls presented by SNAP Productions. 

The major focus of the script is on a pair of twins, Amelia and her brother Sammy. Sammy feels in every respect like a girl, which Amelia accepts unquestioning. Their father Sam has serious trouble dealing with his namesake’s search for identity; their mother Delia has no problem with Sammy’s needs and wants. The play primarily concerns how all four of them try to live with whatever nature has given them.

Anselmi thoroughly takes on that issue but her script does not go much further. In 80 or so minutes she does not develop most characters thoroughly. Thus,  this becomes a rather simple domestic drama not reaching its potential. Leaving it up to the performers to best give it life.

Fortunately all four of them bring thorough sincerity to their roles. Sixth-grader Chloe Irwin stands out with complete, natural innocence as Sammy while Hannah-Kate Kinney’s Amelia has constant believability. Both girls make everything they do and say worth applauding, even though Kinney shouts unintelligibly during angry moments. Delia is portrayed by Kathleen Lomax with total conviction, despite Anselmi not having writing much to work with. And Michal Simpson’s version of Sam comes across with strong emotional dimensions.

Simpson’s performance stays the most interesting. Anselmi has established a solid foundation in this instance. Under the surface, Sam has a few identity problems of his own, as if uncertain about his masculinity. Simpson’s portrayal successfully shows that.In the story, Sam has tried to turn Amelia into some kind of a baseball jock and, as the play develops,it becomes clear that he is much more openly emotional that Delia, who stays strong and rational.Clearly Anselmi’s writing emphasizes untraditional gender roles, even if it seems logical that Sam would more likely want Sammy to be the athlete. The bases are loaded.

Ronnie Wells has created a thoroughly convincing set, amazingly so in such a small venue. And Simpson, as director, has made every scene flow naturally.  

Anselmi’s subject needs this kind of exposure; that validates doing so on stage, but the script needs more development to get beyond the surface.  SNAP does well with what has been given.

Mama’s Girls run through  Dec. 6 at SNAP Productions, 3225 California Street. Thurs-Sat. 8:00 p.m. Sun: 6:00 p.m. Sun. Dec. 6 2:00 p.m. Tickets: $10-$15.

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