Moms take the field
by: Jenni Morin – April 8, 2016
Originally Published by Theatre for Change
The mommy wars have come a long way since Kathleen Clark penned Secrets of a Soccer Mom in 2008, but many of the play’s messages bare repeating to keep the gender equality fight on course. Energetic directing and a talented trio of actresses keep the conversation, and the game, going in AtticRep’s production now showing in the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center through April 17.
Alison, Lynn, and Nancy gather at their sons’ soccer field for a spirited mother-son scrimmage on a Sunday afternoon. As they fight the boredom of the bleachers, they each reveal how frustrated and lost they feel with the choices they’ve made, yet don’t seem to regret. Alison struggles with infidelity after marrying young and giving up athletic competition at the request of her oppressive husband. Lynn immerses herself in PTA duties, planning class trips, and organizing activities for the kids after giving up a career in social work. Nancy reveals how isolated she feels as an introvert who has suppressed her ambition to be a photographer, wondering if it’s already too late for her to follow her dreams. The women gossip, talk about their marriages, sex, and how they’ve become those scary mothers who yell at their children. Not able to decide if it’s best to let their sons win the match or not, they decide to throw it to make them happy, that is until their competitive nature kicks in and they feel the need to prove to their sons, husbands, coaches, and any onlookers, but especially themselves, that they are capable of achieving goals in more way than one.
As Lynn, Georgette Lockwood employed an expressiveness in both face and body to give her character an unparalleled depth. She presented Lynn with an ease and her reversion to her cursing uninhibited former self felt rather natural. Anna De Luna tackled some very awkward phrasing in the script with grace, while allowing Nancy’s anxiety shine through. Maggie Tonra’s Alison confidently held the stage, admittedly with some of the juiciest moments. Despite some of the seemingly stilted language in the script, the women easily bonded in friendship, albeit a little too conveniently.
Clark’s Secrets of a Soccer Mom may very well feel dated for young mothers even only eight years out. The conversation about motherhood has been rapidly transforming into a wider discussion of gender equality. Unfortunately, Clark focuses on only a specific set of mothers who are financially well off enough to not need to work, dabble in volunteer work, and pursue expensive hobbies, which unfairly paints a picture of bored housewives rather than the majority of mothers who struggle with work-life balance and making ends meet. Even by including diversity in casting, the script doesn’t allow for an alternative storyline since none of the characters reference working mothers, differing backgrounds, or tensions outside of their own personal perspectives. What is most notable, however, is the idea that mothers cease to be individuals, or even women, with their own desires or aspirations when they give birth. Loss of identity is the overarching theme in the script and while absolutely universal, seems to be an issue especially with American women who live in a culture where keeping a child happy is more important than teaching independence or equality. Even as the characters reject the label of “soccer mom,” they embody it. In the end, if parenting is just a guessing game, all the stress seems unnecessary. The most important takeaway should be to encourage women to not surrender their needs or their womanhood to motherhood.
Director Marisela Barrera expertly used movement to keep the action fresh in a stagnant setting. Mike Maria infused the workout-worthy tunes into the soundtrack for a fun and athletic atmosphere, but could have been slightly more subtle with some specials in the lighting design. Many of the scene transitions felt labored and interrupted the momentum of the show. Designed by Martha Penaranda, the set, made up of a grass turf and standard bleachers littered with soccer paraphernalia, created a nice backdrop for her athletic wear costumes. The production design as a whole gave the characters a lift from the stereotypical while providing a playful canvas for a somewhat enlightening conversation.
A lighthearted show, The AtticRep production of Secrets of a Soccer Mom illustrates how experiences and sensibilities can span cultural divides. AtticRep entertains while presenting many issues to mull over concerning women and motherhood.
Secrets of a Soccer Mom runs at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center through April 17 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit atticrep.org.