Critic's Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Runs through Feb. 17, 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. and 3 p.m. on Sun. Stageworks, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-727-2708. $26.50. stageworkstheatre.org.
The people who really need to see MOMologues 2: Off to School are the ones who are considering parenthood. I can think of no better, more painless introduction to what to expect when you become a Mom or Dad than this gently funny, shockingly inclusive documentary play.
It’s all here: playdates, Barbies, schoolbuses, nose-picking, babysitters, “clothes processing,” the Terrible Twos, the Tooth Fairy, recycled gifts and much more.
As the father of a young child, I can honestly report that MOMologues 2 is entirely accurate: You will find yourself agonizing about The Sex Talk, searching the hours for elusive Private Time, comparing birthday gifts given to birthday gifts received, and saying repeatedly “Make your bed,” “Brush your teeth,” “Don’t you yell at me,” and “Turn off your computer.” You think that your life is unique? Ain’t the case, not by a long shot. Choose to bring up an ankle-biter and in just a few years you, like millions of other parents, will be warning the little miscreant that if he doesn’t stop whining about how boring the life you’ve given him is, you’re going to forbid him any more computer games and maybe even cut off his Pop-Tarts. And yes, the day will come when you’ll feel embarrassed not to know how to help your daughter with her surprisingly complicated math homework. You think that’ll never happen? Then you might as well see this play and shed the last of your illusions.
I suspect, though, that MOMologues 2, superbly produced by Tampa’s Stageworks, isn’t aimed at parents-to-be. I suspect its real target group is the parents who are going through or have already experienced these passages. And I have to say that, in that case, I can’t as confidently recommend the play. MOMologues 2 offers no new descriptions of the terrain it covers; authors Lisa Rafferty, Stefanie Cloutier, and Sheila Eppolito apparently think that it’s enough just to mention the Cub Scouts and we’ll gratefully think, “Yes, yes, that’s it exactly,” and ask for nothing more insightful. Which is another way of saying that if you’re already a parent, you just might find MOMologues 2 a trifle tiresome. You’ve been there. You’ve done that. As for mirrors, you’ve already got a few. What you go to the theater for: well, it’s not this species of flattery.
The play is constructed intelligently. There are four actors — Gi Sung, Jeni Bond, Rosemary Orlando, and Ericka Womack-Brown — and they represent four mothers who have chosen to share, with us and each other, the trials and joys of raising children. Standing or sitting on Karla Hartley’s attractive minimalist set — a large white round platform backed by a huge screen, some red shelves on wheels, a table, some stools — they bring up subject after subject relevant to the life of a modern parent.
To keep us alert, MOMologues 2 doesn’t dwell on one topic for long; whether it’s missing a birthday party, or forgetting Valentine’s Day cards, or volunteering at preschool, or juggling work and child care. Sometimes one actor has all the attention on herself, as when Bond talks about having a son with a hearing problem and having to become “a speech therapist, a parent advocate, and an expert on hearing technology.” Other times they trade reflections on, say, the demands of doing laundry.
Bond says, “By the time you fold and put away the clothes on your bed, there’s another batch of dirty clothes to start the whole damn process over.” Orlando replies, “Wow, you actually fold and put the clothes away?” Which reminds Sung of the constant “wiping, sweeping up of crumbs, spills, dirt, gunk; and the picking up of toys, boots, cleats, decomposing Froot Loops.” And so on — with occasional good humor, as when one of the women chortles that she got a “Mommy Vacation Day” — when she had a colonoscopy.
All four actors, directed with precision by Hartley, turn in first-class work, and if they sometimes seem to merge into one another, well, I think that’s the point. Melinda Kajando’s costumes are contemporary, Hartley’s lighting is superb, and the whole production screams professionalism from first moment to last.
So once again: if you’re considering parenting, do yourself a favor and see this show. It’s your life for the next 18 years.
But if you’re already a mom or dad, there’s only one reason to show up: that’s if you suspect that parenthood has dealt you — you particularly — a bad hand. It hasn’t. It’s rough for everyone. And as a friend of mine once said, once you figure out one age level, they move on to the next.
Still, we agreed then as now: we wouldn’t miss it for the world.