“Motherhood Out Loud” at Actors’ Summit An Eye-Opening Look at Mothering
By Marjorie Preston
The regional premiere of “Motherhood Out Loud” at Actors’ Summit, conceived and developed by Susan Rose and Joan Stein and written by a team of successful and prolific writers, runs the gamut from laugh-out-loud funny to moving and sad, while remaining for the most part a relatable and heartfelt show. The first half is mostly funny and relatable while the second half delves more into moving, and at times sad, subject material before returning to a touching and funny finale called “My Baby.”
Fourteen writers – Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West – have collaborated to create a collection of nineteen scenes depicting the struggles of mommies throughout their journeys. The topics include surrogacy by gay parents, mothering a boy who challenges gender identity norms, being the odd mom at the park and many other slices of life from birth to great-grandmotherhood.
The cast includes Shani Ferry, Paula Kline-Messner, Gabriel Riazi and Sarah Grewitt. Ferry’s sparkling, bubbly personality works best in her new-mom-with-sick-husband role in “Next to the Crib.” Moms will remember their worry over their newborn getting sick, questioning whether they are up to the task, and fierce protectiveness while trying to sleep on the carpet next to their baby’s crib. She humorously calls her baby “a sleep terrorist.”
Kline-Messner is consistently good and shines in “Queen Esther” about a son who likes to wear dresses and in “Stars and Stripes” about a mother’s anguish over not being able to protect her adult soldier son in a dangerous world. She brings a believability and a matronly gravity when inhabiting her roles. She delivers words of wisdom as the great-grandmother in “Report on Motherhood”: “Children do not like washing their hair; that is why they need less of it.”
Riazi misfires in two of his roles as some of his lines came off too perky for the material, but hits his stride in “If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One with Morning Sickness?” which surely will enlighten others explaining the process of a gay couple seeking surrogacy so they can be a family.
Grewitt is fun to watch as the cool, snarky mom of a rowdy boy in “New in the Motherhood,” the patient mom in “Baby Bird” and the empty-nester we see in “Threesome” and “My Almost Family.”
Director Constance Thackaberry brings this collection of different voices together nearly seamlessly, though the scene entitled “Elizabeth” seems oddly forced and out of place. Other than this speed bump, the rest of the pieces flow well and evoke reactions such as knowing laughter and nods of recognition as well as feelings of sadness at what time has taken away. Set Designer Neil Thackaberry has tacked a collection of childhood memorabilia to the back wall, giving a sort of homey, “cluttered attic” feel. These reminders of childhood – from the classic baby buggy to the wooden sled and teddy bear – remain constant throughout the production. The show will inform the unenlightened and bring recognition to the faces of others, but the scenes are a reminder of the growth process that kids and their parents go through.
“Motherhood Out Loud” runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through April 21. For tickets, call (330) 374-7568 or visit www.actorssummit.org. The show contains adult language and subject matter.