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‘Under the Jell-O Mold’ Teaches Life’s Lessons from Larger-Than-Life Mom
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Wednesday, September 14, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

When Jennie Fahn’s mother realized she was nearing the end of her life, she pulled her daughter aside and told her where she could find her post-mortem instructions: “In an envelope in the kitchen in a cabinet under the Tupperware and under the Jell-O Mold.”

That became the fodder for “Under the Jell-O Mold,” Fahn’s solo award-winning comedy about loss, love and being of sound mind and body.

The hilarious and moving story about the end of her mother’s life will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at The Argyros in Ketchum. Tickets start at $10 and are on sale at https://theargyros.org.

The play has received much acclaim. “It will make you look at your own mother from an entirely new perspective,” said Laura Huntt Foti in a review for Hollywood Fringe. Her characterizations of her mother, father and everyone else are pricless, endowed with detail and love, said Gia On the Move.com.

Fahn, who has appeared on such TV shows as “The Middle” and “The Walking Dead,” said the idea for the show got legs in a 2003 show she wrote and performed called “Your Mother.”

“It was about different mothers—being a mother, having a mother. At that time, my mother was alive so she was one of the characters in the show. She saw the show and loved it, and her character became everyone’s favorite character.”

Her mother, Fahn said, was always the life of every party--a former dancer with a flair for embellishing every story.

“She talked a lot, always playing up this glamorous sounding life: ‘I hiked the Matterhorn. I met Frank Sinatra on the Matterhorn.’ She always had a bigger, better story—90 percent of which was true, and she always made everything very interesting. Everywhere she went she struck up conversations with total strangers, and it always turned out that the waitress knew the brother of her piano teacher…or something like that. When I become my mother in the play, people felt like they had met her.”

After people told her that she needed to do a sequel in which she made her mother the star of the show, Fahn began taking notes about her conversations with her mother, even transcribing the messages her mother left on the answering machine so she could repeat them word for word.

By this time her mother’s faith was beginning to fail and she began leaving explicit instructions for her daughter about what to do when she passed.

“My mother was always very open and honest about what she was going through and what to do when she died. She told me she had written instructions for that moment and she wanted to make sure I knew where those were.”

Realizing the subject of her play might be off-putting, she tried the play off before an audience. A writer/director raised his hand, offering to produce it for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. “Under the Jell-O Mold” won Best Solo Show out of 175 solo shows that were among the 375 shows submitted that year.

It was named Best of Los Angeles Theatre in 2017.

Fahn said her one-woman play has had the unexpected result of helping people open up about their own stories.

“I came to realize that people don’t have a way to share their story. I HAVE to tell the story about my Mom—they need to know that their story is other people’s stories. Everyone is going to go through this if they haven’t yet. Death is inevitable.”

The play has elements of hilarity, owing to the nature of Fahn’s mother who, she said, could make her a little crazy sometimes.

“The beauty of the show is that my Mom is a Jewish mom. But you don’t have to be Jewish to identify with the show. It spans all cultures, and everyone can find something to relate to.”

Ultimately the show is about love, and grief is proof that there is love,” said Fahn.

“It is an emotional experience, but that’s a wonderful thing. My mother was difficult, but I loved her deeply and I know that she loved me. Doing the show, I get to be with my Mom, I get to share my Mom with other people. And the payoff comes when people tell me: I love your mom. I’ll ask, ‘Did you meet my mom?’ And they’ll reply, ‘We saw her on stage.’ ”

 

 

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