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'SOCCER MOM' BEHAVIOR MAY JUST RING TRUE

Gossiping, striving, whining and conniving mark this play at a small Tarpon Springs venue.

For many folks, May is the time for softball, swimming and snorkeling. But in Florida - and at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center - it's also time for soccer.

As in Secrets of a Soccer Mom, a three-character comedy that will probably appeal to anyone, male or female, young or old, who has ever been involved in youth sports.

In it, three New Jersey soccer moms are sitting on the sidelines as they wait their turns to compete with their elementary school-age sons in the annual mothers vs. sons tourney.

There's Nancy (Rita Ciccarello), a former model who's the oldest and most jaded of the trio; Lynn (Heidi Hook), the hyperorganized, endlessly busy volunteer-for-everything mom; and Alison (Patty Wanker), the most athletic of the bunch, who is also the newest to kids' soccer.

As they wait their turns on the field, they discuss the paths their lives have unexpectedly taken, their often distant and taciturn husbands, their abandoned careers and the fact that the world doesn't seem to appreciate their sacrifices.

They chase the kids, gossip about their neighbors (and about each other when one leaves to chase a kid) and wonder where life has gone.

At first, they decide to let their kids win every matchup. But when their competitive juices get flowing, the games become serious.

This is the fourth small-cast comedy George Hook has directed at the intimate, 100-seat Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The former shows, two of them also about sports (Bleacher Bums and Rounding Third), the third a whimsical story about a mythical town on a starry night (Almost, Maine) were well received by audiences.

Soccer Mom has played in dozens of venues since its debut off-Broadway in 2008 and has gotten both enthusiastic and tepid reviews.

"There are some dandy laughs ... in this pleasant if predictable play," said Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times.

"By the end of the play, each one of these women has her own distinct personality that rises above the cardboard characters that populate nighttime TV comedy," said Paulanne Simmons in CurtainUp, the Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings.

At least one theater critic wasn't so generous.

"Neither satirical nor deeply insightful, the undemanding play at best will provoke glints of recognition from viewers not unlike these characters," said Michael Sommers of the Star-Ledger on nj.com. "Spectators need to bring a lot of their personal experiences to the show for Secrets of a Soccer Mom to resonate."

In Florida, that's very possible.

* * *

If you go

Secrets of a Soccer Mom

Where: Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, 101 S Pinellas Ave. (Alt. 19).

When: 7:30 p.m. today,Saturday and May 20 and 21; 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $15 nonmembers; $13 members and students. Call (727) 942-5605.

Up next:RUCKER UP!

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