Review: ‘Motherhood Out Loud’ at Vagabond Players

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There’s no one like your mother, as an old song goes. Vagabond Players’ production of Motherhood Out Loud, wonderfully directed by Rikki Howie Lacewell, explores that theme and nearly every angle of motherhood, from birth to old age. As performed by her outstanding cast, Motherhood Out Loud is a compelling and at times emotional journey through the meaning of motherhood.

Front: Temple Fortson, Nikki Summons. Rear: Christine Alfano, Gareth Kelly, Cheramie Jackson, and Shemika Berry. Photo by Tom Lauer.

The show, a collection of several scenes, was conceived by Joan Stein and Susan R. Rose, and written by several playwrights, including David Cale, Leslie Ayvazian, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman, Brooke Berman, and Cheryl L. West.

In the first scene, “Fast Births Fugue, by Michele Lowe, the characters played by Shemika Berry (a WATCH award-winning makeup artist), Nikki Summons, and Temple Fortson (both making their Vagabond debuts), took turns telling their harrowing yet hilarious tales of childbirth. Cheramie Jackson impressively embodied an array of emotions, including borderline jokingly-homicidal, as a cold-suffering mother with a newborn, who subsequently has to sleep on the floor in “Next To The Crib” by Brooke Berman.

Berry, Summons, and Fortson reunited in “New In The Motherhood,” by Lisa Loomer, which featured three young mothers sitting on a park bench, watching their children play. Berry’s character lamented that if she had known having a child meant “being sentenced to five to ten years in a park, I would have gotten a cat.”

Berry gave one of the better performances I’ve seen this year in “Queen Esther,” by Lowe, which concerned a young Jewish boy who wanted to go to the Purim banquet as the Torah’s Queen Esther. Berry embodied a character with a strong determination to allow her son to live his truth.

Chrstine Alfano, Gareth Kelly, and Nikki Summons. Photo by Tom Lauer.

The lone male member of the cast, Gareth Kelly (who also directs, produces, and writes), beautifully portrayed a married, gay parent in Marco Pennette’s “If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m The One With Morning Sickness.” Kelly’s character, though a panicky worry wart, was steadfast in his insistence to others that his surrogate child having two dads was okay.

Fortson was hilarious as a Muslim mother of a daughter who had her first period during Ramadan, in “Nooha’s List” by Lameece Issaq. Christine Alfano powerfully brought to life a mother of an autistic son going on his first date in Claire LaZebnik’s “Michael’s Date.”

The emotional issue of sons going to war—and possibly never returning—was explored in characters played by Berry and Fortson in Jessica Goldberg’s “Stars and Stripes.”

The stages of life were brought full circle in David Cale’s “Elizabeth,” inhabited by Kelly, who played a divorced man moving back home to live with his mother, who was played by Summons.

The prolific Lacewell (in her “120th foray into theater”) designed her own set using pictures of some of the cast and their families, and artwork by Madeline Morman. Sound Designer Edward Morman introduced scenes by piping in various tunes such as “We Are a Family” and “School House Rock.”

The standing ovation Motherhood Out Loud received is proof that it is an engaging show for mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, all of whom will relate to the stories they see on stage.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Motherhood Out Loud plays through March 19, 2017, at Vagabond Players – 806 South Broadway, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 563-9135, or purchase them online.

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