In Mother Words
Everyone has heard of the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. But what happens after the baby arrives? The anthology-style play In Mother Words could serve as a performance-based sequel to the classic mother-to-be tome, as it tries to encapsulate post-baby life (and a bevy of lessons) through a series of 20 often-touching vignettes spread amongst five ”chapters” and penned by 14 different writers.
Despite the show’s title, I didn’t use the word mother to reference the writers of the sketches because, in the age of gay parenting, not every child has what might be traditionally defined as a mother. A good example of that is the piece ”If We’re Using a Surrogate” in chapter two, penned by Ugly Betty writer Marco Pennette. ”Surrogate” focuses on a gay couple and the trials they face trying to have and raise a child with just ”dad” and ”papa.” Other sketches, some more interesting than others, run the gamut of parenting issues, from the first day of school (”First Day Fugue”) and sex talks (”Sex Talk Fugue”) to children coming back home as adults (”Thanksgiving Fugue”) and mother-in-law issues (”Bridal Shop”).
But you’ve heard all that before — which is why In Mother Words really sings those nontraditional nooks and crannies like ”Surrogate” and Michele Lowe’s ”Queen Esther,” which recounts one mother’s choice to let her son, Sammy, show up at temple dressed biblically as Queen Esther instead of Mordecai, and how she managed to endure the stares and questions. Your heart breaks for the mother and little Sammy, who’s only trying to be himself by donning high heels and a dress, but it succeeds because it is so authentic.
The performances in In Mother Words — led by the tremblingly good Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek and supported strongly by Amy Pietz, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, and James Lecesne — are solid and understated. And that is good because this is truly a writers’ showcase that keeps the focus where it should be: on the Mother Words. B-
(Tickets: tickets.geffenplayhouse.com or 310-208-5454)