‘Stretchmarks: Growing Into Motherhood’ at Strand Theater Company by Amanda Gunther


Everybody has their own ideas about motherhood, what it’s like to be a mother, what to expect when expecting. There are zillions of books to read through and everyone has their own little piece of advice to throw in when you’re first becoming a mom. But the one true thing that never changes, no matter who you talk to, is this: “If momma ain’t happy – ain’t nobody happy.” And that is exactly what The Momma Drama Productions will give you with their zany and creative production of Stretchmarks: Growing Into Motherhood, a play written by mommas for mommas.

You don’t have to be a momma to go and see this show. It’s great for mommas, poppas, even people who don’t have kids. But if you’ve ever known someone who has been pregnant or has gone through the experience of raising their first child – whatever the situation – or if you’ve ever had a mother, you’ll find something in this show to enjoy and learn from. This production, having opened for a limited 5-show performance at Baltimore’s Strand Theater Company, marks the East Coast Premier of the show. After nine years of performing on and off for audiences across San Francisco the Mommas moved their ‘Womb Room’ across the country and set up shop for the first time right here in Baltimore.

(l to r) Saundra (Mary Gilbert) Mother Nature (Trish DeBaun) Annie (Christine Armand) and Leda (Shani Marie Harris-Bagwell). Photo courtesy of The Momma Drama Productions.

The show follows three soon-to-be first time mothers, Annie – the upbeat girl with the perfect marriage, perfect life and perfect fantasy of how getting pregnant and raising a child should go; Saundra – the business mogul who intends to schedule her child’s birth and raising like she does her business meetings, and Leda – the deep artistic type who wants nothing to do with being pregnant and has no clue how to handle it once she finds out she is. Their progress is tracked from mother nature’s blessing of pregnancy right through coping with the terrible two’s in this hilarious and touching growing experience.

Mother Nature (Trish DeBaun) is the guiding force and force to be reckoned with throughout the show. DeBaun’s performance is witty and driven with sarcasm and nurturing moments, the perfect balance between a motherly woman and a woman who’s been dealing with mothers for way too long. She shows a flare with some sass when telling it like it is but can easily turn into a sweet and caring woman as you might expect from the mother of all mothers. Her character reminds us of the important things; that there is wisdom to be found in the clichés and catchphrases of mothers, that there is no black and white in motherhood— only the big gray area of ‘doing the best you can’ and that it’s not always the easiest thing to do. DeBaun is particularly expressive with her eyes, using them to expand upon the emotions she expresses, from frustration and exasperation to tender warming love and care.

Annie (Christine Armand) is the character that we see the most change from. Armand, who doubles as the director and one of the original playwrights, starts off as a quirky bubbly woman with excitement and passion about motherhood. She’s a fresh breath of upbeat inspiration in regards to pregnancy and has a rose-colored glasses approach to the notions of becoming a mother. Armand makes a quick transformation from bright and shiny to dreary and spastic quite quickly when her character’s delusions of motherhood are not all they were cracked up to be. Her rapid plight into disenchantment is comical and raw, leaving you laughing at her while feeling her pain.

Saundra (Mary Gilbert) is very businesslike and maintains that astute reserved personality with a serious attitude and command of her life. Gilbert suffers a great breakdown when trying to decide between work and her child and her job. Her physicality is perhaps the least involved of the performers but this really suits her character, making her feel even more standoffish and calculated; every moment planned down to the wire, including the baby’s sleep schedule.

Leda (Shani Marie Harris-Bagwell) has an attitude of self-importance and is self-absorbed. She believes herself to be deep and involved in her art and finds mother nature’s gift of pregnancy to be more of a curse. Bagwell’s harsh exterior gives a great contrast to the other two mothers, especially during the birthing scene where she wishes to be as far removed from the experience as possible, and opts for the epidural. Bagwell’s performance softens as she too grows into motherhood, giving us a complete 360, if not as drastic as Annie’s transformation.

The three mothers interact well together and they share great moments of spontaneous bursts of song, including the kick-line fosse style number “Sleep” and then their eruption of need during the song “Wild Thing.” All four women command a presence on stage that will keep you laughing and crying and growing right along with them.

So if you’re a momma, or if you have ever had a momma, are thinking of becoming a momma, or know a momma, have kids or don’t – this is one show that you should check out. Bring your momma! And remember –  if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Wild Things (l to r) Mary Gilbert, Shani Marie Harris-Bagwell, Trish DeBaun and Christine Armand. Photo courtesy of The Momma Drama Productions.

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission.

Stretchmarks: Growing Into Motherhood plays a limited engagement with only three performances left, Saturday June 23 at 8 pm, and Sunday June 24 at 1 pm, and 8 pm at Strand Theater Company - 1823 North Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office to reserve them at (443) 874-4917, or purchase them online.

For more information about The Momma Drama and it’s up-coming performances and projects, follow the mommas here.

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