Motherhood Out Loud @ 59E59 Theater through October 29th
Motherhood Out Loud, a compilation of monologues, from various points of views, written by some of today’s best known playwrights, doesn’t entirely deliver. The opening scene left me fearing that a 90 minute show will feel like a full day of labor. What the play lacked in made up with great performances. The performers did the best they could as they talked about the pains and joys of motherhood. As the four performers consistently switched roles, they engaged the audience with various vignettes. The intent of the play was to share stories about motherhood through the eyes of various mothers and two fathers. I understand the intent, but I wasn’t able to emotionally invest myself in any of the characters due to the consistent role switches. Therefore I felt disconnected. Though most of the sketches were captivating, and heartfelt, a few of the playwrights’ voices stood out more than others. I wanted to enjoy the experience but struggled with it due to the unstable format. I found myself asking why I care about these stories and characters. The parade of parenting clichés has been covered in other plays but with originality and more depth. When the ideas were running out, the clichés were there to fall back on. It felt formulaic and overly familiar, especially during the choral sequence scene, which the performers share the stage, telling stories about their kids first day of school, awkward conversations about sex, and dating.
It’s as if Motherhood Out Loud is the continuation of The Vagina Monologues, another play with a similar format. It lacks the edge, power, and punch that The Vagina Monologues embodied. The chronological timeline does the material a disservice and gives off mixed, even counterintuitive signals. The play suggests that all tender, funny, and endearing aspects of motherhood are confined to the early stages of life. Once infancy and early childhood is past, there is loss, emptiness, and sorrow. Since the characters and situations aren’t fleshed out, the vignettes feels like they are still gestating. Despite the best efforts from the creative team and performers, the play becomes a frustratingly narrow view of motherhood. In the end you learn that life is a cycle whether it is good or bad. It’s surprising that a play created by a great caliber of playwrights, including Theresa Rebeck and Beth Henley, has left me with very little to shout about.
Motherhood Out Loud @ 59E59 Theater (59 East 59th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues) runs through October 29. For more information, please visit http://motherhoodoutloud.com.