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Carnegie’s “Motherhood Out Loud” is a Candid Look at Being a Parent

Review by Hannah Gregory of Motherhood Out Loud: Carnegie Theatre

The Carnegie’s Motherhood Out Loud must have been meticulously planned as a pre-Mother’s Day treat. With spring finally settling in, this show about the givers of life seems appropriate. This medley of stories about motherhood touts the authorships of many female playwrights, including notable names such as Theresa Rebeck and Beth Henley.

The show’s organization could not be more impeccable: the audience is led from birth to children coming home to take care of their mothers in chapters, each of which begin with a themed vignette where actors metaphorically set the stage for what we can expect; then, three monologues follow, and on we go. The show is tight and concise, pausing only where it needs to and promptly moving on––a wise decision on behalf of director Jodie Meyn, as the show runs over two hours.

Jenny Roesel Ustick’s set is simple and malleable, featuring abstract pink pillars, a large white platform, and a chair. Nicholas Smith’s lighting highlights characters in a gentle wash, and sound designer Avery Reynolds utilizes soothing percussive music for scene changes. With such a simple set, actors must rise to the challenge of painting the scene with their words.

And they do.

This small but mighty cast––featuring Erin Carr, Liz Carman, Nazanin Khodadad, Martha Slater, and R. DeAndre Smith––is lovely to watch as actors shift from character to character. Standout pieces include “Queen Esther” performed by Carman and “My Baby” performed by Slater, but every actor on stage gives a humanness and familiarity to each character they portray. The show also touches on difficult issues like adoption, stepchildren, and surrogacy and balances the awe-inspiring bringing-life-into-the-world moments with the whackier I’m-about-to-fight-with-this-mom-at-the-park moments.

The piece as a whole is a gentle reminder that motherhood isn’t all dewy and divine; in fact, most of it is damn difficult. With so many characters, it also reminds us that no two experiences are the same.

As one woman gleefully quipped behind me, “That’s exactly what it’s like!” This piece will obviously resonate the most with mothers themselves, though there were a few men in the audience chuckling along. Though the title may imply a family-friendly show, leave the smaller kids at home for this one unless you’re fine with them hearing some language. Motherhood Out Loud is best enjoyed with close friends or generations of women in the family.

Motherhood Out Loud runs at The Carnegie thru April 29. For tickets, call 859.957.1940 or visit thecarnegie.com.