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Barra Grant is Beautiful, inside and out… in “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter”

In an exquisite one woman show, Barra Grant pays homage to her mother, Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, and in so doing, recollects, reconciles, and redeems a most complex yet loving mother-daughter relationship. Theirs is a forever, unbreakable bond, as we, the audience discover, that despite their many differences, they have more in common than one would ever believe, all in the name of motherly love. “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter,” written and performed by Barra Grant, with Monica Piper, (as the cleverly construed offstage voice of Myerson), and directed by Eve Brandstein, is a two character solo show focusing on the intense, at times turbulent bond between the ‘infamous’ beauty queen and her daughter, who, at the end of the day, is ironically just like her: loving, passionate, humorous, strong-willed, and deeply opinionated. Barra Grant’s beautiful, insightful, autobiographical story brings to light onstage, that attention (or lack, thereof) is a form of love, with many consequences and repercussions. And if you pay the right kind of attention to the keen dialogue, as well as historic slideshow footage, absorbing all the riffs and tender moments in the soliloquies and duet phone conversations, the show’s message should be sure to resonate,connect, and captivate. It would be hard not to! Performed with daunting precision, Grant reflects on the melodrama of her youth, how her mother was/is ever present, fixated on molding her only daughter into a future version of herself. This show is a perfect venue for Barra Grant to assert and establish her own individuality, and pave the way for her ‘own place in the universe.’ As a daughter of an iconic woman, who was surely a ‘hard act to follow,’ we see in Grant, a woman, clearly in her own right, both a rebel and conformist; feisty yet fragile; awkward yet ambitious, overall a unique package of contradictory impulses.

Each line of dialogue is filled with lively wordplay, revealing this mother/daughter’s steadfast devotion to each other through thick and thin. Watching someone grow and evolve right in front of you, is indeed a beautiful, bittersweet process.

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