If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
Moms Given the Spotlight in Hartford
The conflicting joys and sorrows of being a mom are explored in an entertaining new collection of playlets under the umbrella title of “Motherhood Out Loud”, currently enjoying a crowd-pleasing world premiere at Hartford Stage. Cleverly conceived by Susan Rose and Joan Stein, the new work utilizes the talents of more than a dozen contemporary writers as it surveys the meaning of “mothering” in all its diverse forms. The evening is mostly a winner.
Divided into five chapters, a sort of mothering life cycle, the play begins with the birthing process and then proceeds to chronicle what it takes and eventually what it all means to become a mom. Familiar playwrights like Theresa Rebeck, Lisa Loomer and Beth Henley are well-represented but insightful work is also provided by Michele Lowe (the busiest playwright here with seven pieces), Luanne Rice, Cheryl West, Leslie Ayvazian, Lameece Issaq, Brett Paesel, Adriana Trigiani and Jessica Goldberg. The evening is breezily staged by Lisa Peterson who employs a trio of wonderful actresses (and one token gent – more about him later) to bring the various morsels of wit and wisdom to life.
Randy Graff, April Yvette Thompson and Amy Irving dash in and out of several characters mixing ages, types and races with ease. One of the best playlets finds the gifted Ms. Graff as a Muslim mom trying to share confidences with her rebellious teenage daughter (the delightful Ms. Thompson). Amy Irving, probably best remembered as Barbra Striesand’s confused bride in “Yentl”, is splendid throughout bringing a compelling poignancy to many of her pieces including the lovely finale, “My Baby” by Annie Weisman. The conflicting emotions of stepmothers, empty nest syndrome, aging parents and immigrant nannies are given voice here while providing a steady stream of giggles and tears.
With its strong female sensibility and blatant sisterhood on display here, it seems almost unfair - nearly an hour into the work - to add actor James Lecesne into the mix. That the talented Mr. Lecesne brings hilarity and pathos to his monologue about a gay parent is credit to the actor and writer (Marco Pennette). Still, it does seem a little unnecessary and jarring to shoehorn a male viewpoint into the mothering theme as though paying lip service to the opposite sex. While it doesn’t distract from the overall success of the evening, it might be worth reconsidering as the play is further developed.
Also distracting is the use of scripts-in-hand by the actors for much of the performance. The play appears to still be a work-in-progress which is fine (even at these prices!), but Peterson should decide one way or another whether all or none of the actors will be carrying scripts. Some seem ready to fly solo while Mr. Lecesne, for one, looks like he was given his script twenty minutes before curtain.
Minor problems. Most of “Motherhood Out Loud” works splendidly and makes for a fast-paced and entertaining 90 minutes. The simple and sleek scenic design (Rachel Hauck), lighting (Peter Kaczorowski) and music (Jill BC Duboff) work seamlessly together. Kudos also for the inventive projections and animation designed by Jan Hartley and Emily Hubley which blend and bridge the numerous vignettes perfectly. All said, this is probably a theatre outing even your grumpy mother-in-law could love.
“Motherhood Out Loud” continues at Hartford Stage through March 21st. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.
Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.
This review first appeared in Elm City Newspapers on March 10, 2010