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My Mother Had Two Faces

My Mother Had Two Faces, written and performed by Karen Trachtenberg, puts the audience face-to-face with Verena, a beautiful and controlling Swedish woman. Using striking masks, her mother's diaries, and her Buddhist belief system, Trachtenberg dissects and relives the entirety of her relationship with her mother in an hour's time.

As the show begins, the audience is quickly introduced to the first face of Verena. This one is carefully curated, controlled, and clean, and is the face Verena presented publicly. A mask depicting this look, masterfully created by Eric Bornstein, is used by Trachtenberg as a means of flipping between herself and her mother in the recreation of childhood moments. Later in the show, a second mask with a crazed and sinister look is brought out for the same purpose. Which face is Verena's "real" one? How long will this face be around? Trachtenberg weaves between monologuing her inner life to the audience and living in flashes of the past, and the use of masks offers a dynamic transition through these opposing narrative styles.

Trachtenberg's performance was certainly full of thought in line with a note below the title labeling the show "Reflections on Beauty, Aging and Acceptance." A 'Mirror, Mirror on the Wall' type projection of Trachtenberg is employed throughout the show to guide her through Buddhist moments of self-reflection. However, this level of thought often left some moments lacking in vulnerability. She delivered strongly in the few moments she performed with the masks, yet seemed to nervously check boxes on a list of ideas when narrating in between. 

Themes of struggle with vulnerability echoed throughout the show, ironically hindering Trachtenberg's relationship with the audience, just as they did with her mother. Her tendency to explain situations rather than living in the emotion of them resulted in a struggle for the audience to feel alongside her. A reunion conversation between Trachtenberg and her mother, set in a different dimension, brought the show to its culmination- Again, she left the audience with emotionally mature conclusions, yet longing for the theatricality of the messy emotions running behind a mother/daughter relationship.

My Mother Had Two Faces is a neatly packaged glimpse into Karen Trachtenberg's upbringing and offers a beautiful example of Buddhist faith in action. It can be seen next at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

"My Mother Had Two Faces"

Written and Performed by Karin Trachtenberg

Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson

March 14, 2024

The 16th United Solo Festival

March 4 – April 28, 2024

Theatre Row

410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)


Jaycie Buben is a fast-paced brain in an unhurried body. They are the wearer of many hats- Writer, Actor, Singer, Creator, beanie, baseball cap, etc. After completing their BFA in Acting at Shenandoah Conservatory, Jaycie moved to New York to explore and expand their creative passions. Some of their favorite credits include assistant directing Macbeth (The Tank), playing the titular role in Ajax (Hypnos Theatre and Performance), and writing poetry/essays/genre-defying mind blips (Jaycie’s bedroom). Jaycie’s creative work is inspired and driven by exploring the nuanced relationship between opposing forces.



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