BWW Reviews: Tennessee Women's Theater Project's SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM

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Soccer moms tend to get a bum rap from most of the media these days. Lumped into one big group of harried, overworked women, they are usually viewed as some sort of monolith. Like so many Stepford Wives pursuing the same goals and thinking the same thoughts, we are led to believe that soccer moms all tend to vote the same way, wear the same clothes and drive the same mini-vans - at least that's what you probably think if you base your perceptions solely upon conventional thought and what the media force-feeds you during the 24/7 cable news cycle.

But thanks to Kathleen Clark's genuinely funny Secrets of a Soccer Mom, now onstage in an entertaining production from Maryanna Clarke and Tennessee Women's Theater Project, you get a glimpse at the "real" reality of the lives of soccer moms, as opposed to the reality you may have been led to expect. Be forewarned: It's like looking behind the curtain to see what makes the Wizard the wizard and chances are you will never again look at the soccer mom in the next lane in the same way.

Clarke's imaginative and spirited direction brings Clark's script to life in a well-paced production that follows the adventures of three soccer moms named Nancy, Lynn and Alison (played respectively by Nancy Whitehead, Brittany Childers Nelson and Amanda Card-McCoy).

At first glance, they prove the stereotype of the suburban mom with too many irons in the fire. They commiserate about their all-too-often distant and ignorant husbands, complain about their overly packed agendas and worry that in their zeal to be perfect mothers they are, in fact, neglecting their children's real needs. Certainly, those concerns are viable, but everyone (on some level, at least) has those same concerns and that doesn't necessarily make the soccer moms a special breed.

However, on further examination, you see the women emerge as individuals, with all the flaws and attributes that all people possess. Having been lumped together by the term "soccer moms," their identities have been sublimated for the stereotype, but as each woman's life is unveiled, you see how each woman clearly belies those preconceptions and how each is, clearly, her own woman who is infinitely more interesting.

That, of course, is the true beauty of Clark's script and what makes her rather gentle tale all the more impressive. Nancy, Lynn and Alison are intriguing people and as we learn more about each woman, we are drawn closer, our connection to each woman underscored by their shared realities and the universality of their stories.

Clark's one-act play is relatively short - just over an hour, actually - and during that short time, we get to know the three women as they are gathered on a soccer field on a Sunday afternoon in autumn for the annual mother-son soccer match, an opportunity for the boys to get a much-needed win to bolster their egos and for the moms to show support for their kids. It also provides fodder for some great one-liners from the characters and as the women lose their inhibitions, we are allowed that glimpse into what really happens when their guard is down.

Clarke's cast give uniformly delightful - and insightful - performances. Whitehead is perfectly cast as Nancy, whose acerbic take on life is refreshingly free of martyrdom. Nelson effectively plays the much-too-involved Lynn, whose Dayrunner is filled to overflowing with "volunteer opportunities," with the right amount of exasperation. Finally, Card-McCoy is fine as the highly strung Alison, whose enthusiasm for sports masks her intensity and makes her character the most interesting of the three.

The performances of the three women are highlighted by Katie Gant's superb lighting design and Susan Jakoblew's costumes helps to delineate the characters effectively.

- Secrets of a Soccer Mom. By Kathleen Clark. Directed by Maryanna Clarke. Produced by Chris Clarke. Presented by Tennessee Women's Theater Project at the Z. Alexander Looby Theatre, Nashville. Through March 14. For ticket information, call (615) 681-7220, or visit the company website at www.twtp.org.



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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis