THE WORD 2: UNHINGED
The following is Jerry's review of the original Arts Club production from 2005.
If anything disproves the theory of Intelligent Design it must be teenagers.
When I called a psychiatrist friend of mine once in a moment of despair, he reassured me with a laugh that I shouldn’t worry about my kids because “they all go insane when they turn 13.” And in theory, they re-emerge sometime later as sane, normal, rational, affectionate humans. The trick is to survive those years in between.
Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged picks up the story of motherhood a decade after the five Vancouver moms who put this show together first appeared onstage dealing with leaky boobs and dirty diapers in the hugely successful Mom’s the Word. Co-creators Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams are back from the original cast with Susinn McFarlen subbing for Robin Nichol and Roy Surette directing.
Older, wiser, and in most cases wider, the women recall their youthful naïve idealism regarding motherhood (“How hard could it be?”), and regale us with tragi-comic tales of bewilderment and frustration in having to deal with their children’s raging adolescence along with their own aging and their sometimes strained marriages.
Against the backdrop of Pam Johnson’s colourful set, a combination playroom, laundry room and kitchen, the women perform a succession of very funny monologues. One notes how her menopause conveniently coincides with her children’s puberty, “so we can all be miserable together.” Others describe trying to get their teens to school on time or struggling to help with math homework. And there’s a running theme of helpless, hopeless, clueless husbands.
On a less comic note Kelly recalls the chilling moment when her daughter first called her “stupid,” marking the fall from innocence, the transformation of the child’s unconditional love for her mom to apparently unconditional hate. Other anecdotes dealing with theft, drugs and even breast cancer provide a dark undertone to the comedy.
Sexual anxieties naturally occupy a major place in the discourse—how could they not in an age when grade six girls reportedly routinely provide boys with oral sex.
Self-blame is prevalent too, most vividly when Daum’s memories of her own wild adolescence make her unable to trust her son because “my coke-snorting, shoplifting slut from the past won’t let me.”
Clever ensemble pieces help break up the parade of monologues, including a prayer scene (“help me to love laundry…”); a Marine drill sergeant teaching her recruits how to deal with the enemy; a delightful dance routine in costumes made of pots, mops and sponges; and a couple of singing boobs.
All five performers shine but Williams’ work stands out and Pollard, at one point, lets it all hang out.
Anyone who currently has, once had, or plans ever to have teenagers should see this show for the horrible, hilarious truths it tells about parenthood. The show is proving so popular that it’s already been held over a week to November 19.Jerry Wasserman