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Paulanne Simmons

Speaking of Our Mothers...


"Motherhood Out Loud"
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Primary Stages
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
Opened Oct, 4, 2011
Tues. - Thurs. at 7pm, Fri. at 8pm, Sat, at 2pm & 8pm, Oct. 9 matinee at 3pm, Oct, 12 matinee at 2pm
Closes: Oct. 29, 2011
Tickets: $66 (includes a $1 donation to Choices in Childbirth)
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 1, 2011

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Mary Bacon and Randy Graff. Photo by James Leynse.

If there is a sacred ground left in a world where sentimentality is often banned or belittled, it is the domain of motherhood. Yet our ideas of family have certainly changed over the past few decades as the divorce rate has risen, gay marriage has become more acceptable and more and more women (and sometimes men) find themselves single parents.

All these changes are reflected in "Motherhood Out Loud," conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein. Lisa Peterson directs a cast of four performers (Mary Bacon, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Randy Graff, James Lecesne) who deliver a series of monologues divided into five chapters: First Births, First Day, Sex Talk, Stepping Out, Coming Home. The scenes are written by several well-known writers: Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lmeece Issa, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebecl, Luanne Rice, Annie Weissman, Cheryl L. West. Each of these playwrights has his or her own take on this fascinating subject.

All the usual 21st century suspects are here: the stepmother trying to find a place for herself in someone else’s family, the gay man who wants to become a father. the mother who is trying to do what’s best for an autistic son, the mother who suspects her very young son may be gay or transgender or perhaps just a cross-dresser.

There are also more traditional situations. A mother buys a bra for a daughter who clearly doesn’t need one yet. A child leaves home for college. A mother learns how to be a mother-in-law.

If there are no particularly new insights offered in "Motherhood Out Loud," the writing is so good and the ensemble cast works so well together that each scene seems as fresh as a ... well ... baby. There is a good balance of the poignant and the hilarious. It’s hard not to fall off your seat laughing at a young girl’s bewilderment and shock when her great great-grandmother rattles off a long and graphic list of all the unsuccessful methods of birth control she tried. And who would not be moved by the mother of a soldier who tattoos herself with a star, a talisman that she hopes will insure a safe homecoming for her son.

Our ideas on motherhood may have changed over the years, but not our idea about love, commitment and sacrifice. Nor will we ever solve all the conflicts in the mother-child relationship, which is the source of so much humor and pathos. "Motherhood Out Loud" is for all those who cannot think of their mother or their child without feeling guilty or proud, humiliated or validated, rejected or accepted unconditionally. In other words, it’s for everyone.

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