Motherhood Out Loud: You’ll Relate

The Entire cast of Motherhood Out Loud

Last week I went to see Primary Stages Motherhood Out Loud, which opens today at the 59E59 theatre here in NYC. MOL is an uneven series of vignettes about – you guess it – motherhood.  From childbirth to college, to becoming the parent to your own parents, it covers the experiences all parents have.

And that’s the problem.

It’s not that I don’t want to “relate” to what I’m seeing on stage, it’s just that I’d also like it to make me realize I relate to something I ddin’t quite know I did before.  I guess it’s Andy Warhol‘s theory of the visual arts applied to the theatre arts: Art is something that makes you look at familiar things in new ways.

Well, they got the familiar part.

Yes, I can relate to the story about about the callous anesthesiologist administering an epidural.  Yes, I chuckled when a new mom called her baby a “sleep terrorist.”  I completely “got” the mother who announced she hated the playground.  (I did too) But none of the comedy surprised me.  None of it made me laugh about something I never realized was funny, or ridiculous.  It felt a little bit “been there done that.”

Which was a bummer, because I got the tickets from my brand-spanking new affiliation with MamaDrama (full disclosure) and I wanted to like it more than I did. Thank goodness for the dramatic pieces which were much more consistent, and sometimes, downright wonderful.

You certainly can’t blame the actors for the show’s weaknesses: three women and one man play all the parts: Mary Bacon, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Randy Graff, amd James Lecesne. They all do a terrific job jumping from part to part, from playwright to playwright. (The show is actually a series of vignettes from several different writers.)

But it’s uneven.  Because while the comedy scenes felt a bit cliched – the more serious scenes  shine Michelle Lowe’s Queen Esther, about a gender-confused little boy, captures the pain and love of a mother for her son. And hey- there’s Michele Lowe again with Graduation Day Fugue, a moving, subtle monologue about an empty nester. (Lowe should have stuck with drama, however, her “comic” Bridal Shop piece falls flat.)

“If we’re using a Surrogate, how come I’m the one with Morning Sickness” is a wonderful comic/serious turn for James Lecesne, written by Marco Pennette. It’s about  gay couple and their struggle to have a baby.  And it’s just the kind of humor I like – it’s funny, but twinged with sadness.  The father is self aware – he knows when his “inner asshole” comes out. He knows both his gay and his straight friends will look at him funny. But he’s a parent.  Lescensne does it again with a comic/tragic turn in Elizabeth, by David Cale.  In this piece, a grown son becomes the “parent” to his aging mother.

So bottom line: you’ll laugh.  I did.  But you’ll laugh in a sit-com way — not in a “John Stewart is so insightfully funny and I never looked at it that way” way.  And you’ll tear up — not from cliches, but from good writing (kudos to Jessica Goldberg for Stars and Stripes about a military mother, movingly, angrily, lovingly performed by Ekulona.), good performances, and moments that make you say “how true.  And I never looked at it that way before.”

Warhol might even have been proud.

Want tickets to see Motherhood Out Loud? Use this discount code for $5 off the ticket price. BWWMOM

Comments

  1. says

    Nancy-
    I love the way you critique the plays and shows that you get to see. I only wish I was able to get out to the theater, any theater, as often as you do.

    I did see Phantom on Broadway about a thousand years ago… and loved it and promised myself I would get up to NYC to see more but then… 3 kids in 3 years added to the 3 I already had so…

    I will continue to live vicariously through theatrical events of others… oh, except for the plays at my kids high school, which are actually not too bad:)

    Keep going to the theater and keep writing about it so I can keep my artistic appetite fed!

    • says

      One day, Dawn, you will come to NY, and stay on my pull out couch, and we will go see a bazillion shows!! Until then, happy to be your eyes, ears, and general all-around, overly critical theater goer!

  2. says

    I really enjoyed the play, and I felt like it was seamless. While some of the situations were familiar to me, I felt like there was a wide enough variety to both interest and entertain me. A lot of my personal experience was not represented on stage, and I liked that.

    That said, it’s refreshing to see a review that’s not all about loving something – so much is these days. My own review was lopsidedly (albeit genuinely) positive for this play, and it made me uncomfortable.

    • says

      Thanks. It’s not that I didn’t like it…just that I didn’t like all of it. Hey, it’s a review. There’s good and bad, right? Thanks for appreciating that i didn’t gush! Glad you loved it, though. Different strokes…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *