Theatre is the church of love. Don’t believe me? Head on down to the Granville Island Stage and take in Mom’s the Word 3: Nest 1/2 Empty.
As the title makes clear, this is the third installment of the Mom’s the Word series. The first hit the boards way back in 1995 when a bunch of Vancouver theatre artists who had recently become mothers decided to reignite their careers by writing and performing their own show. I remember sitting in that audience, so charmed out of my mind by the artists’ stories that I started willing myself to ovulate. The original Mom’s the Word has gone on to become an international hit.
In this new offering, the kids who were babies then have grown up and left home—sort of, sometimes. Well, off and on. The writing in Mom’s the Word 3 is the strongest yet from this five-member ensemble. It’s generous. It’s honest—with some exaggeration. And it’s very, very funny.
Comedy thrives on transgression. That’s why it’s so much fun when Robin Nichol says of her son’s new girlfriend, “We sre as accepting as shit, Unfortunately, I don’t like her.” And comedy loves the absurd, so it’s a hoot when Alison Kelly, who is having a little trouble letting her adult kids go, makes a discovery: “Turns out I’m not supposed to show up at her work.”
The love that these mothers have for their kids is palpable. Jill Daum frets about her children in the middle of the night, “Because, if I can’t see them, they’re probably dead.” But Mom’s the Word 3 also opens up to explore its creators’ marriages. Barbara Pollard’s ex left her. Describing divorce, she says, “He takes your skin, sews it into a suitcase, and gives it to another woman.”
Within its pastiche format, Mom’s the Word 3 shapes its storylines into satisfying arcs. Pollard embraces her sexuality with gusto—and the help of a Jacuzzi jet—and comes to terms with her fury. Daum, whose husband, John Mann, has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, continues to honestly and unsentimentally work her way through that process.
One of the great things about this evening is its variety, and Deborah Williams is the queen of variety. She is unafraid of darkness. She fantasizes about suicide, but then her meds get adjusted: “It’s not perfect, but I do have more sparkly suicidal thoughts.” At the end of the intermission, she taps a poem into her cell phone and it’s projected onto the back wall of the set. Later, she works the crowd like a pro, asking for tips on how to establish rules for living with your adult children. The night I attended, an audience member suggested: “Don’t use all the data!”
The show isn’t perfect. Two musical numbers are lip-synched, which undercuts their impact. And the climax of Daum’s story is a tone-deaf joke. But the theatre is a place where we share what it means to be human. And the humanity of Mom’s the Word 3 is undeniable.
It’s no surprise that audience members are grateful for the level of skill the performers bring to the stage. It’s a huge deal that Mom’s the Word is about the experiences of women, which are still wildly underrepresented on the stage. And an enormous part of the charm of the event is that the company members offer their skills—and their experiences—so humbly. Those actors are just like us. Their experiences are just like ours. They are us. While I was watching the show, I could hear little murmurs of recognition popping all around me like raindrops hitting the surface of a pond.
MOM’S THE WORD 3: NEST 1/2 EMPTY By Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard, and Deborah Williams. Directed by Wayne Harrison. An Arts Club production. At the Granville Island Stage on Thursday, April 13. Continues until May 20.
For tickets, phone 604-687-1644 or visit www.artsclub.com