Mommapalooza! Short Takes on Mom | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Mommapalooza! Short Takes on Mom 

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MOMMAPALOOZA! Short Takes on Mom, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, at Footsteps Theatre Company. Of the six one-acts in this anthology, only S.L. Daniels's sketch about young women selling their eggs has anything new to say about motherhood. And that piece, though interesting, feels incomplete, as if Daniels hadn't fully researched her rich, highly charged topic.

The rest of the one-acts, however well written, feel like short versions of plays and stories we've already seen. Lisa Dillman's moving meditation on aging and the loss of one's faculties, Chiaroscurro, is vaguely reminiscent of Arthur Kopit's Wings. Christian Stolte's eccentric comedy about a young woman with a seven-year-old who looks and acts like he's 30 feels like a dime-store version of a screwy David Ives one-act. And Richard Strand's bracing look at a family reunited at a mother's deathbed feels like a pastiche of a dozen plays and/or short stories on death and dying from the last 15 years.

Director Ann Boyd seems to have done little more than plop actors into the roles and let them go. In some cases this technique works, as in Anne McGravie's chilling monologue Amanda, about a mother who abuses her child, and Sally Nemeth's tender portrait of a 1940s mother and daughter, ably played by Tara Mallen and Lynnette Gaza. But in the other plays--most notably Daniels's--the drab set, lack of focus, and poor pacing make even the cleverest material seem labored and obvious. --Jack Helbig

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