Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 17, 2009

Mother Load

CityStage, Springfield, MA
through April 19
by R.E. Smith

Who knew parental guilt could be so funny? "Mother Load" spins 75 minutes of genuine laughs around a single notion: "as a mother I am an utter failure." Since every parent has probably had that thought, it is gratifying to see the internal monologue hilariously played out so that one can nod along in agreement.

Betsey Stover was an endearing, identifiable and fearless performer. If you didn't identify with her character Amy's messy living room set, you had to find some common ground when she lamented the condition of her midsection and dejectedly showed it off. She was equally adept with verbal and physical comedy, rapturously enjoying her first child-free exercise class one moment and then skewering a pompous pre-school screener the next. Her vocal delivery of a grandmother's simple assessment of a baby's constant crying was priceless.

Amy Wilson's script is a transcript of common truths that mothers share over frazzled cups of coffee. Pestered by the disembodied voice of "experts" on such topics as "sippie cups of death" and "interpretive dance for toddlers," this "everymom" is confronted with naysayers at every turn. While some one-person shows would grandstand with maudlin asides, Wilson wisely understands that laughs are far more therapeutic.

Julie Kramer's direction keeps the laughs coming fast and their aim is true. The synergy between writer, director and performer is evident in a segment when Wilson realizes that she actually got to sleep through the night. Mom's reaction to even this happy circumstance can have guilty consequences. The moment is fresh and real.

It should be noted that this reviewer was one of only a dozen males in an audience of females, but that in no way detracted from the enjoyment of the material. Certainly some of the most hilarious bits were female-centric: breast feeding support groups that offer no support at all or how easily it is to deviate from your "birth plan" when the pain of childbirth sets in. But the fear that one isn't living up to "best" parent standards crosses gender lines. "Mother Load" is like a big hug that helps a parent know that one is not alone.