By Bonnie Goldberg

Having a famous parent is no guarantee of smiles, spotlights and armfuls of pink roses.  The relationship between a mother and a daughter can be a thorny one, complicated by the added pressure of notoriety.  Just ask Eva whose mother is a noted classical pianist, a woman who has devoted herself to her talent and her craft to the neglect and exclusion of her family.

Now after a seven year absence, Eva is reaching out for a reunion, a reconciliation, to her parent, Charlotte, or is she?  In Ingmar Bergman’s taut and emotionally devastating drama “Autumn Sonata,” at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven until Saturday, May 7, Eva’s motives are unclear, even to her.

Candy Buckley’s Charlotte has never been maternal, warm and fuzzy, supportive and encouraging.  She is more at home on the concert stage, a diva who demands much of herself, a woman who satisfies her sexual appetites at the expense of those she should value and care about the most.

Charlotte responds to Eva’s invitation in a whirlwind of welcome, barging into her remote refuge, a parsonage in Norway, as if it is a life affirming move.  Eva (Rebecca Henderson) and her pastor husband Viktor (Olek Krupa) are swept up in Charlotte’s theatrical ways, but quickly the facade of well-being crumples and ugly truths are revealed.

Eva, a writer, has lost her own son Eric and that loss colors her world.  She hurls hurtful and angry accusations at Charlotte for all her neglectful sins of the past, especially concerning her sister Helena (Merritt Janson) who is quite ill.  Eva has take Helena into her home to care for when Charlotte abandoned her to a nursing facility.

Robert Woodruff directs this United States premiere that is based on the original screenplay, with a new literal translation by Wendy Weckwerth,one that is filled with confessions and gut-wrenching heartache.  He uses a stark set and visual images to engage the audience and define his characters.

For tickets ($10-85), call the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and selected Wednesdays.

Be haunted by Eva’s awe of Charlotte that is equally a hatred as terrible truths thunder in the night.

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