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The tartness of truth

PHOTO COURTESY OF KALI KARDAS

Martha (Briana Kuni), usually the perfect people-pleasing daughter, has a rare confrontation with her mother (Debbie Wright) while Miranda (Aimee Hamilton) nurses her hangover in this scene from Hugs and Quiches.

ORIGINAL PRODUCTION 'HUGS AND QUICHES' NAVIGATES MOTHER/DAUGHTER DYNAMICS

B Y  M I K E  M c I N A L L Y

Kali Kardas always wanted to try her hand at writing, but it was hard to find the time to squeeze it into her busy schedule.

"Writing was one of those things that I had said, 'Well, I'll find time for it eventually," said Kardas, the writer and director of Hugs and Quiches, this weekend's offering from the Majestic Readers' Theatre Company.

But then a friend found a time slot that Kardas somehow had left open — 6 a.m. on Wednesdays. The friend had started a writing group that met at a restaurant in Eugene, where Kardas lives.

Kardas, a familiar face in the mid-valley's theater scene, thought about it and then realized: "I'm never going to do it if I don't do it now."

It was the start of the process that eventually led to Hugs and Quiches, a coming-of-age story about mothers and daughters that makes its virtual debut this weekend at the Majestic. (See information box below for more details about showtimes and how to buy tickets.)

Kardas wrote several short plays and half of another one, but the story that evolved into Hugs started to develop as she worked on a piece about the relationships between parents and grown children: "These characters just started speaking to me," she said.

CHECK IT OUT

Hugs and Quiches will be streaming all weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 24 and 25. Tickets cost $10, $15 or $20. To learn more about the play, and to purchase tickets, click here. Upon purchasing a ticket, theatergoers will receive an access code that will allow them to watch the play any time during the weekend. The play features profanity and sexual themes. 

Hugs and Quiches revolves around Martha (Briana Kuni), an ambitious teenager and one of two daughters of June (Debbie Wright), a divorced mother grappling with addiction issues. An older daughter, Miranda (Aimee Hamilton), lives in the household, but it's Martha who keeps the household running. And it's Martha who recently has launched her own baking channel on YouTube — a development that does not please her mother. As Martha delves more into her family and its secrets, she's forced to confront her role as the perfect daughter.

"In the play, Martha is able to slowly unravel the truth," Kardas said. "It's a coming-of-age story for Martha," and it includes a harsh lesson: "Life sometimes has some ugly truths behind it."

Kardas said the play isn't autobiographical, but the theme of a strained relationship between a mother and daughter does resonate with her: "My mom passed away from cancer when I was 21," she said. "She was sick for a long time and I didn't have the best relationship with her. But when I lost her, I was devastated. It's something that I was just never able to resolve. ... That's the foundation of (Hugs and Quiches) on a very deep level."

Although the play isn't "a sitcom, that's for sure," Kardas said it has plenty of funny moments, many of them courtesy of Miranda's dry sarcasm. And Kardas said audience members will connect with the play because it rings true to their experiences: "They'll laugh because they relate to the authenticity of it."

For the four-person show, Kardas assembled a mix of actors who will be familiar to mid-valley audiences and some newcomers. Kuni, who plays Martha, lives in HIllsboro, and "had such a sweetness to her, a youthful quality that I really needed for Martha."

For June, Kardas turned to Readers' Theatre veteran Wright, last seen in The Quality of Life in 2019 and Tin Woman in 2020. Hamilton, who plays Miranda, has appeared in numerous productions in the Eugene area. The fourth member of the cast, Stephanie Crowley, was featured in the 2020 Majesticpiece Theatre production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Her character, Tana, knows secrets about June that eventually come to light.

The actors and Kardas had time in the rehearsal process to develop their characters, and Kardas said she tried to leave room for her cast members to come up with their own insights into their roles. "I tried not to totally feed it to them," she said — and, sure enough, the actors came up with unexpected and delightful surprises. "That, to me, is what makes theater so vibrant," she said.