On a seemingly normal evening, we meet Thelma Cates (Mama), an aging mother and widow who lives with her daughter, Jessie. Jessie is the divorced mother of a hoodlum son, who – unsatisfied and depressed – struggles with life as an unemployed epileptic. On this night, Jessie comes into the room asking her mother about the whereabouts of her father’s old revolver. When Jessie finds it in the attic, she confesses to her mother that she is going to kill herself. Tonight. At first, Mama laughs it off, thinking Jessie is just making a sick joke. But, as Jessie makes her way around the house, organizing, making lists, and teaching Mama her responsibilities, it soon becomes clear that it is not. As Mama pleads for Jessie to reconsider her decision, old secrets are revealed and long-ignored feelings rise to the surface. The mother-daughter bond between Jessie and Mama becomes stronger and lovelier than ever, making it possible for Jessie to end her noisy, cluttered existence, and enter a quieter, calmer life with closure and love.
“Marsha Norman's fine, sensitivity written play is enormously impressive.” (Newsday)