Hazel Bartlett in Motherhood Out Loud. Photo – Eve Theatre Company.

Motherhood Out Loud

Conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein

Written by Leslie Ayvazian, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley,

Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe,

Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman,

and Cheryl L. West

Directed by Nancy Hoover

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents copyright © 2013 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

If there is one universal truth, it is that everyone has had a mother.

Whether or not we get the chance to be parents ourselves, odds are we were raised by that sainted woman who bore us (or adopted us), and she, more than any other person in our lives, shaped the person we turned out to be.

It’s with that idea in mind that the Eve Theatre Company presents Motherhood Out Loud, a truly involving and inspiring evening of vignettes that celebrate mothers in all shapes, sizes, creeds, and even genders. As with any show of this type, the quality varies from piece to piece; but the overall takeaway is one of being profoundly moved. At least it was with this reviewer!

Mostly a series of monologues (with a couple of multi-character scenes sprinkled throughout), the show moves fluidly from stories of labor and delivery, through toddlers and young childhood, to teenagers and adult children, and even to the point when the child becomes the caregiver late in the mother’s life. It really is quite difficult to sit through the proceedings without shedding a few tears along the way.

Simply staged on a mostly bare stage in front of an artful display of what I can only describe as “mom paraphernalia,” director Nancy Hoover has coaxed some truly incredible performances from her rather large cast (the show was conceived for a total of four actors, but this cast boasts twelve extremely talented performers). If the performance ever falters, it is when the script lets the cast down, and not due to any failure from the performers or their director.

Among the twenty short stories depicted, the one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest is Jessica Goldberg’s Stars and Stripes. As given life in a stunning performance by Hazel Bartlett, this story of a proud mother whose son has gone off to fight the war in Afghanistan simultaneously goes right where you expect it to, and then doesn’t. It’s a powerful piece of theater delivered by an amazing actress, and arguably the most emotionally resonant of the evening.

Also memorable (and way on the other end of the emotional spectrum) is Diane Stretz-Thurmond’s take as a Muslim mother with a pack of brats in Lameece Issaq’s Nooha’s List; and Beth Henley’s Report on Motherhood, in which an elderly matriarch (Mary Ann Johnson) explains to her great-granddaughter (Jessica Godsey) how much she hated being a mother.

Gender identity also gets some nice moments, with Michele Lowe’s feel-good piece Queen Estherdetailing a mother’s decision to allow her male child to dress as the Biblical queen for Purim; and in Marco Pennette’s If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One With Morning Sickness, an endearing but cliché-laden and catty tale of a gay couple trying to procreate. The latter strongly benefits from Miguel Walker’s heartfelt performance, even if his material sometimes strays into SNL-spoof territory.

The rest of the cast also holds their own, with some other nice moments provided by Su Crocker, Glenna Godsey, Jon Huffman, and Susan McNeese Lynch worthy of mention. This is a show worthy of its title, and possibly something you should consider taking your own Mom to see (provided she isn’t easily offended by the occasionally very frank and blue vocabulary).

Featuring Hazel Bartlett, Su Crocker, Anna Francis, Glenna Godsey, Jessica Godsey, Charlotte Hammett Hubrich, Jon Huffman, Mary Ann Johnson, Susan McNeese Lynch, Julie Streble, Diane Stretz-Thurmond, and Miguel Walker

Motherhood Out Loud

June 7-23, 2013

Eve Theatre Company

at The Victor Jory Theatre

Actors Theatre of Louisville

315 Main Street

Louisville, KY 40202