If you’re looking for a show that will truly rock your world – it’s landed at Venus Theatre. This world premiere of Alyson Mead’s Punk Rock Mom is the second show in their 2012 season of Bold Hope and is the last show before the summer roles in. Directed by Deborah Randall, this zany show takes us into the world of has been punk rocker Jamie (played by Randall) who is attempting to carry on her heyday right through her midlife crisis. But Jamie’s midlife crisis isn’t your typical meltdown because it centers around her conservative daughter, Joan, having a baby with her husband; on purpose. This forces Jamie to confront not only the strangled relationship with her daughter but the ghosts of her sordid past as she attempts to determine the paternity of her daughter. It’s a sensational show that will have you fist-pumping the air before you go and shed a little light into the punk rock era, and why some people are so desperate to cling to it.
Director Deborah Randall doesn’t get caught up in overcomplicating this production with heavy set pieces, excessive props, or fancy costumes. While Costume Designer Marilyn Johnson does make distinctive choices between Jamie’s trashy rock-concert clothes and Joan’s sensible modern style, these selections are simplistic and add just the right hint of expression to the show without overtaking it. The real creative fun from the production side of the show is in Sound Designer Neil McFadden’s compilation of various songs from the title genre that play throughout the show, before the show, and during intermission. McFadden selects the most upbeat songs, featuring some of the loudest screaming guitars and heavy percussion of the genre for the show.
Randall works closely with the other five actors to create a natural feel to the work – letting the text guide the audience on this experience. It’s easy to become lost in the reality of this show as the actors work to make each scene appear to be a snippet from something you might overhear while walking down the street, or coming from your neighbor’s apartment; coming together as ninety minutes of vastly entertaining segments of real life. The actors create living stereotypes for their characters and manage to execute them with a level of believability that is beyond impressive.
The show revolves around Jamie (Randall) and how she interacts with each of the other characters, her relationships, obstacles, and challenges. Her explosive nature is apparent right from the moment she first takes to the stage, vacuuming and rocking around the living room to some punk rock music, getting lost in the rhythm of the beat and the vacuum-dancing. She spends most of the production in her own little jaded world. She crafts an immature response to arguments with her daughter, every bit the petulant child Joan is when it comes to each other’s opinions. Randall has stunning moments where she touches base with reality – first when reflecting back upon why she never told Joan about her father, and again later when she settles into a broken and raw state, repeating song lyrics in a time of crisis. Randall manages an outstanding performance, bouncing back and forth between sexually overcharged and substance subdued to give this show the spark that it needs to really light the fire of solid dramatic work with a huge flare-up of comedy.
The supporting cast is equally as talented – each character falling into their own little niche and fitting into Jamie’s world like awkwardly angled puzzle pieces. Joan (Ann Fraistat) uses her body and vocal tones to express how very conservative and proper she has grown up to be. Fraistat has a drastic moment of explosive anger that rips up from her core like a monster tearing through tissue paper, when she is confronted with one of the several possibilities of who her father might be. The arguments that Fraistat encounters with Randall have a true estranged mother-daughter feel to them as each goes at the other’s lifestyle, choices, and opinions, making it all the more real for those watching.
Alex Zavistovich has a difficult character turn around, but manages to execute it flawlessly. Playing both Cliff, a former punk rocker turned Buddhist monk, and then Jerry, a punk rocker who much like Jamie is still stuck trying to live out his heyday. The characters are on stage within seconds of each other and Zavistovich makes the transition flawlessly not having a single reminiscent trait from one to the other.
And more of the plays quirky characters can be found in Mark (James Waters) Joan’s lifeless husband who can’t detach from his electronics for more than 30 seconds at a time. Waters undergoes a brief but drastic transformation late in act II and the growth in his character is astonishing as he moves from catatonic electronic man to a real live person with worries and palpable emotions.
Christopher Williams (Marlon, the gay brother) and Queen V Suya (the obnoxious best friend) provide little pick-me-ups to the show when the scenes hit a slow point and their witty one-liners or funny actions – like when Williams goes head to head with Randall in a round of Guitar Hero – provide excellent comic relief while adding depth and dimension to the show.
So be sure to rock on down to Venus Theatre because you won’t want to miss Punk Rock Mom before it rocks out of town.
Running Time: 90 minutes with one-ten minute intermission.
Punk Rock Mom plays through May 27, 2012 at Venus Theatre – 21 C Street in Laurel, MD. Tickets are available for purchase up to one hour prior to show time in the lobby of the theatre, or can be purchased online.