"M" is for the Many Things...
By Geary Danihy
Gentle. Caring. Loving. Demanding. At times irrational. Doting. Competitive. Reflective. Frightened. Lonely. They’re mothers, and they are the subject of Motherhood Out Loud, which runs through May 29 at Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company.
More a verbal revue, with multiple authors, than a play, Motherhood Out Loud is a treat for those who appreciate watching actors do their stuff, for the four actors, creating multiple characters at various stages in a mother’s life, are simply mesmerizing.
Under the knowing direction of Tom Holehan, the Theatre’s creative director, Lucy Babbitt, Lillian Garcia, Leigh Katz and Kiel Stango, with simple props (basically scarves, shawls and a cigarette or two), and on a relatively bare stage accentuated by a clothesline weighed down by various children’s garments, create many magical moments. It’s a simple, unadorned treat.
In the opening scenes, the three ladies arranged in an arc, and then individually, give the audience the agony and ecstasy of childbirth, and then it’s on to diapers and outings in the park, play dates, unwanted childrearing advice and the sense that the tiny folks they gave birth to are becoming people with dreams, desires and frustrations of their own. The sunrise of birth must inevitably give way to the sunset of disengagement and gradual generational alienation.
In scene after scene, these accomplished actors create characters that are immediately recognizable and totally engaging. They are young, inexperienced mothers, they are frustrated housewives, they are doting, opinionated mothers often helicoptering over their children, combative, abrasive and knowing.
Each vignette or monologue has a distinct beginning, middle and end. To mention a few shining moments, at one point Stango is a gay man who, with his partner, is searching for a surrogate mother so the couple can have a child. It is a touching ten minutes that challenges the concept of parenthood and ends with a gesture that can’t help but moisten the most cynical of eyes. Then there is Garcia, who is called upon to create variously distinct ethnic characters, none more successfully than Nooha, a middle-eastern immigrant faced with dealing with her Americanized children. It’s simply a wonderful, nuanced piece of acting.
Not to be outdone, Babbitt gives us an earthy, cigarette-smoking lady who simply can’t buy into all of the “child as be-all-and-end-all” philosophy, then morphs into the mother of an autistic child going out on his first date and then ends up as a great-grandmother speaking words of wisdom to a 12-year-old, played by Katz, who also takes on the roles of a mother who crashes her soon-to-be-daughter-in-law’s bridal gown selection as well one of three mothers attempting to handle “the talk” about the birds and bees.
With no intermission needed, the 90 minutes seem to fly by, thanks to Holehan’s pacing, no-nonsense blackouts, and a cast that can change characters at, well, the drop of a scarf.
The show runs through May 29. For tickets or more information call 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.