It’s a problem of both style and subject, as "Motherhood Out Loud" is a collection of monologues and fugues written by 14 contemporary playwrights, and that collage format doesn’t allow the audience to settle into the pleasure of a story.
Instead, the show conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein (which once had the working title "Love, Loss and What I Bore") seems engineered to offer something for everyone, as if the play were compiled after collecting polling data across the strata of contemporary mothers.
‘Motherhood Out Loud’
In mothers’ words, Pygmalion Productions offers heart along with the clichés of “Motherhood Out Loud.”
Cast » Barb Gandy, Betsy West, Michael Canham, Elizabeth Golden and Tamara Johnson Howell, directed by Shellie Waters.
When » Reviewed Thursday, May 1; continues through May 17 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional matinee at 2 p.m. May 17.
Where » Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center’s Black Box theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets » $20 ($15 student discounts); at 801-355-2787; or pygmalionproductions.org
Running time » About 110 minutes, including a 10-minute intermission
Note » Audience members who attend the May 11 Mother’s Day performance will receive a special treat.
Caution » Mature audiences; some adult language and themes
About that subject: You might think producing "Motherhood Out Loud" would be a best-selling no-brainer for a female-centric theater company in a city lousy with mothers. But the script’s frank storytelling — which begins with labor stories and proceeds to instructions for Kegel exercises and continues through sex-ed talks about condom-sheathed bananas — drops a few too many f-bombs for those of my mother’s generation. For me and my friends, it’s more of a night out with girlfriends or sisters. And it would be a nice talker for any father seeking insight into what it feels like on the other side of the parenting bench.
Director Shellie Waters has made wise casting choices in pairing talent and material. In comedic moments, Betsy West and Barb Gandy are particularly good when their characters riff off each other. Separately, West shines in "My Almost Family," with her wry, wistful delivery of a stepmom’s story, and Gandy is especially good as a great-grandmother who shocks when she admits she didn’t particularly like some of her children.
Elizabeth Golden is graceful and strong in a bookended pair of new-mother monologues. Michael Canham’s solid delivery can’t make much out of a clichéd gay-father rant, but the performer’s quiet power finds voice in "Elizabeth," a poignant story of an adult son learning how to nurture his aging mother.
The night’s most moving turns belong to Tamara Howell, who conveys range and rich authenticity in two standout monologues. In "Queen Esther," she’s the mother of a young son who wants to wear a barrette in his hair and dress up as Esther for a Purim festival, rather than as Mordecai, like all the other boys. And in "Stars and Stripes," Howell roars like a powerful mother lion who would tattoo a sky’s worth of blue stars on her back if it would bring her son home safe from Afghanistan.
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