Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: One Strong Mama

By Michael Block

All Mariah MacCarthy wanted to do was give her child to gay people. And spoiler alert, she did. But even with the conclusion spoiled in the title, Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People is a story about a journey had by one strong woman. Written and performed by MacCarthy, the Caps Lock Theatre production tugs at your heart as the illustrious scribe shares an intimate and personal story with no fear at all.
Sharing the story of the nine months and some she carried her son, Baby Mama is the raw and real tale of the most adult decision of Mariah MacCarthy’s entire life. With a strong narrative style, MacCarthy wistfully takes her audience through almost every thought and choice she made after becoming pregnant. MacCarthy’s writing style is accessible and poignant. She doesn’t littler her script in metaphors, she is concise and lets the story speak for itself. Keeping the tale in chronological order allowed the rhythm of the event to unfold naturally. The anticipation was maintained even when she humorously spoiled the outcome as she did find ways to potentially fool you. MacCarthy brought immense heart and soul that effortlessly leaped from page to stage. From a performance vantage, it took some time to warm up to MacCarthy on stage. There was a bit of discomfort to start but once she began to live in her story once again, MacCarthy beamed with passion.
photo by Kacey Stamats
To help navigate MacCarthy through her story, director Sara Lyons helped to bring out the humor of the situation while balancing the gravitas MacCarthy infused. With a very to-the-point text, Lyons captured the sincerity and wit of MacCarthy’s textual roadmap. Highlighting the humor through the asides engaged the audience into the intimacy, making the audience feel as if they were another friend gifted this story. MacCarthy’s script has clear cut beats and chapters, per se. And in those moments, she would take a breath and a sip of water. Lyons and her design team needed to find something to cover the break beats. Whether it was sound or allowing MacCarthy to incorporate the water bottle into her act, the silence was sadly uncomfortable. That being said, the simply stated design was perfect for this production. MacCarthy was radiant as the lady in red, dressed by costume designer Stirling Allred. The purple dusting treatment on the wall and floor from Nick Francone gave the space just the pop it needed. Francone, who also served as lighting designer, brought some more color into the space that didn’t necessarily alter the mood but give a little more pizzazz to the story. There’s something about the string lights that managed to evoke an intimate classy bar feel where MacCarthy felt safe to share.
To share the story she did, Mariah MacCarthy found a safe space with an audience willing to go on the journey with her. And she earned it. Baby Mama is a courageous story. There’s nothing political to be had. She never preaches or asks for sympathy. MacCarthy tells a story. Plain and simple. And that’s what made Baby Mama so powerful.