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Top Drawer: Coping with Family History

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Adelaide Mestre’s one-woman play, Top Drawer, is a memoir focusing on the relationship between her parents, a dynamic yet tragic couple. After the play, I interviewed the actress, singer, and playwright over dinner, where she traced the evolution of the production that is based on her life. “I go back and forth between singing and writing and I hadn’t really integrated the two yet,” she explained. She decided to bring together her love of writing and music to create this ode to her family.

The cliche “opposites attract” truly describes Mestre’s parents. Her mother was an opera singer from an upper class WASP family, while her father was a Cuban pianist and closet homosexual who suffered from depression. The play revolves around his suicide and how Adelaide, only 13, coped with the tragedy. In the process, she learned a lot about her family, and, ultimately, about herself. “I really learned so much about them.” she said. “I didn’t know what was at the heart of their togetherness, what brought them together. I thought, oh, my dad was just trying to be straight! He was just trying to be conventional! “

That was really not the case. “They really did have this deep friendship that endured,” she said. “As a kid, I was angry about it all.” Writing and performing Top Drawer has been a therapeutic experience for Mestre, helping her to work on her relationship with her mother. “I had come to an understanding about them and it was very healing,” she said. “I developed more acceptance. It changed my relationship with my mom.”

Her mom was in the audience and was brought to tears. Her mother is depicted in the play as often cold, but in person was warm and friendly. She accepted her ex-husband as he was and also accepted and was touched by Adelaide’s writing and performance. The play is dark, yet uplifting, showing that no family is perfect, but through understanding and healing even imperfect beauty can blossom.

Top Drawer
Written and performed by Adelaide Mestre
With Doug Oberhamer at the Piano
Directed by Coco Cohn
Triad Theatre
Three remaining performances: April 1, 8, 15

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