Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver and Canadian Tour, 2017/18/19
The great English playwright Harold Pinter used to ring his frequent collaborator, the director Peter Hall and announce: “I’m pregnant again!”, which meant there was a new play in the offing, and after a suitable dramaturgical gestation, something quintessentially Pinter-esque would be born. Every couple of years I get a similar call from one of the Mom’s the Word Collective to say – they don’t want to alarm me so they don’t use the word pregnant – “there’s another one on the way.” I’m thrilled because it means I get to work again – on a new chapter – with a group of women who changed the theatrical landscape, not just in Canada, but on several continents. Long before there was The Vagina Monologues, Menopause the Musical, even Fifty Shades of Grey – Live on stage!, there was Mom’s the Word, as a group of Vancouver women, mothers all, did Saturday morning “writing therapy”, to fathom their lives as parents, partners and, yes, sexual beings, and how to recover from the pain caused by treading bare-footed on a Lego brick. They were also keen to discover how multiple moms/theatre workers could inch their way back into the Profession after having children. They were role models! Ironically it was one of the hubbies who said: “This stuff’s good – funny, insightful, authentic – you should put it on stage.” They did. And in the process they changed their lives and the lives of countless moms (and hubbies etc) who learned and laughed and cried in the Theatre of Recognition as Mom’s the Word became a global hit. Last year alone, productions toured in Scotland, Germany, Canada. I’m sure there’s not a day goes by when someone, somewhere in the world isn’t saying “Contractions quickening, more intense…” (The opening to Mom’s #1) or showing us that damn Lego brick (a big laugh in Mom’s #2 and the “best of” show, Mom’s Remixed.) And now a new chapter, when the kids are on the move, or should be, or we pray they will, soon, please sweet heaven! and the Moms have kept on working, holding up that mirror, examining the reflections, still teaching and learning, while being just a little bitter that the Lego Batman movie is going to be such a colossal hit.
“Mom’s the Word 3 captivates with its heart, humour and honesty … Over and over, I laughed to the point of tears.” – The Georgia Straight
Mom’s the Word is truth and hilarity rolled into one
Take a moment to appreciate every little good thing that your mother has ever done for you in your life — and then prepare to laugh uproariously as you hear it all onstage from her perspective.
Mom’s the Word: Nest 1/2 Empty is a fun and funny “based on a true story” take on the middle-aged-woman experience from the unique viewpoints of the five writers who make up the team. The content of the show — from the heartfelt to the hilarious — comes from the real-life experiences of that creative team.
Mostly, anyways. The surreal and hilarious musical moments as the performers parodied pop songs with parental-inspired lyrics (The Baha Men-inspired “Who takes the trash out?” was particularly well done) or took part in a ridiculous and sexualized pool noodle ballet were probably more loosely interpreted than other parts of the show in Friday night’s performance at Persephone Theatre.
The play is, to put it simply, fast-paced. The first act opens with a barrage of one-liners fired off with reckless abandon — and unerring accuracy, based on the laughs from the audience.
But weaving through all of the lightning-fast and funny snapshots were through-lines from each performer that touched on more serious aspects of their lives while still maintaining some of that humorous edge only available through a retrospective lens.
Jill Daum’s continuing thread about dealing with a spouse diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s is especially poignant and powerful. As she described keeping the secret of her husband’s diagnosis, it silenced the audience. Which only made it that much better when she revealed the somewhat raunchy shirts she printed for his last concert near the end of the play.
Let’s take a moment to really appreciate how clever this show is. Turning autobiographical content into comedy is not easy. And making that comedy fit in with four other stories? This is what powerful and honest theatre is supposed to look like.
– Matt Olson, Star Phoenix, Saskatoon 23/09/2018