Mom’s the Word is a time-tested hit for a good reason: It lays out the craziness of being a new parent, with unapologetic, hilarious commiseration and moments of tenderness to cling to. Even 21 years after it first hit the stage, the play’s Belfry Theatre opening Thursday proved it still hits home for anyone with a new mom, or child, in their lives.
That said, I almost didn’t make it through the first scene. Even the mime of labour, the clenched-jaw pushing, the doubled-over squat, the grunting, was a little too fresh.
My daughter’s birth 15 months ago was not terrible or complicated, but it was hard and kind of scary — in that loss-of-control-to-nature way. In the intermission, my friend, also a new mom, said she felt the same.
Another confession: I had to pry my baby’s small hands from my neck and leave her, arched-back and wailing in her father’s arms, to go see the play. The ever-present guilt of motherhood nagged me the entire night. But I’m still glad I went.
The Vancouver playwrights, Linda A. Carson, Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams, were in the audience. They based the play on their conversations together as new moms in the early 1990s.
With those kids now grown, I wondered how they viewed those capsule moments of themselves and their children with each new rendition of the play. Were there new places to cringe and other moments to crave as their parenting days changed and their kids grew?
Most of the audience members on opening night were more likely grandparents or had grown children. Where did they laugh in the show? What about those with no children?
Mom’s the Word is the kind of show you can’t help but bring a personal lens to. Luckily, it has enough laughs and sweet moments to appeal to just about anybody.
For me, the dialogue felt familiar, an accurate reflection of chitchat with other moms. So the big guffaws came from the subtle jokes, a dance homage to a chair with longing for one moment’s rest, and mom Linda (Yumi Ogawa) reflecting on how days with baby can be crazy boring with few words.
Moms’ bodies can be also be a taboo subject, so it was refreshing to have the show’s wilder moments lay this all bare. That included one streak of what seemed like improv by Deborah (Jennifer Paterson) that even cracked up her co-stars.
While the first half of the play dishes up the messy and exhausting side of being a new mom, the latter half delves into moments of fierce love. There is no one storyline to follow, but rather the development of each mom’s struggles and triumphs.
One of the funniest scenes came from Victoria cast member Sarah Donald, playing Jill, as she imagined breaking the ice with a group of snobby moms by re-enacting labour contractions.
The play has been updated over the years. The cast is more diverse, and pop-culture references have been tucked in, but it still feels slightly dated. That might be for the best, though, as the audiences will likely span generations of parents.
What: Mom’s the Word
Where: The Belfry Theatre
When: Aug. 9 to 28
Tickets: $20 to $59
Stars: Four (out of five)