Baby Talk

Breeder, beware: Upon viewing Amy Wilson's snappy and entertaining solo show Mother Load, you may start to question every decision you've made as a parent. And that's a good thing. By sharing her personal bouts with compulsive, self-destructive parental perfectionism, Wilson encourages parents, would-be parents, and anyone who has parents to learn to relinquish control and stop sweating the small stuff. This frank, funny, and rather frightening adventure on the front lines of motherhood should be required viewing for the overachiever in all of us.

Wilson wrote Mother Load in response to the myriad voices (some real, some imagined) that surrounded her when she became a mother. An accomplished and educated woman with a college degree and a thriving acting career, she planned to tackle motherhood as she would any important task—with thorough research, careful planning, and hard work.

But as she soon discovered, things don't always work out as planned. A specific birthing schedule should be shredded when your hours of labor climb into the double digits, a screaming baby won't win you any friends at a postnatal exercise class, and overly detailed preschool applications may very well drain every bit of your time (and sanity).

Under the sharp and savvy direction of Julie Kramer, Wilson tells her story chronologically, beginning with issues of conception (the humiliation of infertility clinics) and ending as she sends her first son off to preschool. (She now has two sons and is pregnant with her third child.)

Wilson is brutally honest about her expectations, experiences, and reactions to modern parenthood, in which everyone from your aunt to a well-dressed stranger on the playground feels free to offer unsolicited advice. With so much information available at your fingertips, she points out, "there is no right answer."

Wilson also offers humorous (and all too brief) anecdotes about her husband, who responds to the early stages of labor by eating everything in sight. It would be interesting to hear more about her perceptions about the male approach to parenting, because, as Wilson tells us, there's certainly much more pressure on the mothers—men are more easily forgiven for their transgressions. "It's cute when dads screw up," she wryly surmises.

Horror film-inspired music and lighting effects provide witty and somewhat overwrought commentary on Wilson's supposedly dire parenting mistakes. Although we laugh at the absurdity of her experiences, they underscore the detrimental power of social expectations, which encourage us to live "in a pressure cooker."

A poised and confident actress, Wilson turns in witty portraits of a variety of characters. Especially entertaining is an avowed "lactivist" whom Wilson consults for breast-feeding assistance at a store called "The Breast of Everything." She attacks her subject honestly and with a sparkling sense of humor.

As talented as she is, Wilson is no show-off, and she wisely keeps the show at an intimate level, creating the effect of a conversation between friends. As she speaks to the audience, she wanders around the over-cluttered living room set, folding baby clothes and picking up toys. It's clear that this is a home overrun by the needs and wants of children, and as she clears away the mess, we begin to feel that she's finally finding some space for herself. But her efforts to clean up, we soon realize, reflect her attempts to be a "perfect mom." In Mother Load, at least, a messy, lived-in room is a treasure to behold.

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