TAMPA — When you get pregnant, you gain a lot of weight. Going to the gynecologist is humiliating. Babies demand a mother's full attention.
Are you laughing? If not, you might want to skip the Stageworks production of The MOMologues, consisting of two hours' worth of that sort of trite and obvious commentary about pregnancy and parenthood.
The show, billed as a "sassy" comedy, is obviously aimed at mothers. And, indeed, at Saturday's performance the women in the audience seemed to appreciate it more than the men. But even from the women, whispered words of agreement ("That's right," "So true," "Oh, yeah") were heard far more often than laughter.
The MOMologues, reportedly a huge hit in Boston, was written by three women and is performed here by four. They all play numerous, nameless roles in a succession of skits — there are few actual monologues — involving extremely negative observations about motherhood.
Even if you're not a mother, you've heard every one of these observations a million times before. Writers Lisa Rafferty, Stefanie Cloutier and Sheila Eppolito are content to rely on the material's familiarity to give their show its appeal; they barely even pretend that they're trying to be clever.
The cast (Rosemary Orlando, Jeni Bond, Susan Karsnick and L'Tanya Van Hamersveld, directed by Karla Hartley) does its best, and in fact the show's most appealing moments come from the acting rather than the writing.
It seems obvious, as you listen to the incessant light-hearted complaints about motherhood, that the show will eventually try to develop a heart. And it does just that, ending with a series of stories about more serious aspects of motherhood — the heartbreak of watching your child head off on the bus for her first day of school, the panic of becoming separated from your toddler in a crowded mall. Those segments are more effective than the comic parts of the show.
One huge problem with this production is the lighting. Hartley uses nothing but lights mounted on stands behind the audience, so the middle section of seats ends up being more brightly lit than the stage. At best, it gives the production an amateurish atmosphere and makes the production unnecessarily hard to watch. At worst, it's a huge distraction. The blond hair and bald head of the couple in front of you shine, while the actors are relatively dim. And from some seats, when you're watching at certain angles, the lights are actually shining into your eyes.
Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.