BWW Reviews: MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD by City Theatre is More Whimper than Roar
There are many ways that I could describe my mother, and one of the first adjectives that comes to mind is organized- my mom is meticulous and knows how to get everything where it should be so that it can excel. City Theatre's production of Motherhood Out Loud, however, could have used more of that organization and direction in a production that largely underwhelms.
The production, which is an Austin premiere, consists of a series of monologues, each written by varying playwrights and occasionally feature more than one actor. Separated into multiple chapters, the relatively short show drags on, in large part due to the (lack of) direction. Bridget Farias is credited with directing the show, but the components never really come together and seem like they were perfunctorily coordinated, rather than working towards a vision. I assume that this was in a hope to highlight the script and use the simplicity as a means to focus on the text being delivered, but the laissez-faire attempt actually does the opposite. Every aspect of the show suffers from a lack of detail, a feeling that we are watching a show that is two weeks into rehearsal rather than ready to go on stage.
Speaking of the stage, our first look into the production features what looks like a quickly thrown-together backdrop that looks like a house and limits the actors to their stools and the very small space of a few feet in front of them. This cramped feeling keeps all of the action in the same place- even though this is a show of monologues, some movement and stage pictures would really benefit the audience. The lighting limits the space as well, any actors out of down center stage are almost completely in the dark. It's another detail that seems to be ignored because we are watching a show of monologues, but it's notably distracting.
Equally distracting was the lack of uniformity by the actors. A few of them had their monologues memorized, while some carried around their binders and read through them and seemed to stick out as the actors who weren't able to memorize lines. The acting also seemed to lack conviction, save for a few exceptions. While the script was often witty and funny, most everything was underplayed, although that didn't seem intentional. Rather, it appeared to stem from that same lack of direction. On occasion there was a moment of power and honesty, in particular Judith Light's portrayal of a military mother in 'Stars and Stripes', and virtually any time that Caroline St. Denis appeared on stage (though her performance might have been more entertaining without the script in her hands). The low-energy, broadly-painted production even ended appropriately, with a nice moment that was interrupted by a jarring song that overpowered the voices of the actors. Though the writing works to honor mothers, overall City's production of Motherhood Out Loud feels more like the proverbial Mother's Day gift gone wrong, the equivalent of a child washing the dishes upside-down in the washer or making a bouquet of flowers freshly picked from mom's well-manicured garden; well-intentioned but less than satisfying.
MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD, produced by City Theatre (3823 Airport Boulevard, Suite D), runs May 10, May 11, May 18, 25 and June 8, 15, 22 at 2 pm, and May 11th at 8:30 PM. Tickets run from $10 - $20. For more information, please visit www.citytheatreaustin.org/