By Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard, and Deborah Williams. Directed by Wayne Harrison. At the Arts Club Theatre Granville Island Stage on April 13. Continues until May 20
The day after Mom’s the Word 3 opened, the Arts Club announced a two-week holdover. If you don’t already have a ticket, get one now. Better yet, get two. Bring someone you love—it doesn’t have to be your mom—because this show is a huge gift.
It’s impossible to overestimate the achievement of this group of women. What began as a sanity-saving project for six theatre artists with young children (Linda Carson was part of the first show, but not subsequent ones) at the 1994 Women in View Festival has grown into an international franchise, with productions all over the world. For audiences who’ve gotten to know the creators’ kids in early childhood and adolescence, this show, which tracks the moms’ relationships with their adult children, is a welcome continuation of a beloved story. But you don’t have to have seen the earlier shows to appreciate the heart and humour of this one.
Like the previous installments, Mom’s the Word 3 has a variety-show format, with brief skits, musical numbers, a game show, and lots of personal storytelling. Some of it is serious: Jill Daum tells of the life-changing Alzheimer’s diagnosis of her husband, Spirit of the West singer John Mann, at 50, and how it has opened a whole new phase of caregiving in her life. Robin Nichol recounts how her elderly father became a victim of ruthless scammers. Some is darkly funny: Barbara Pollard makes inventive use of a kitchen knife to dramatize her bitter divorce, and Deborah Williams makes repeated sardonic allusions to her depression: “I’d love to be a model for more than Mental Health Weekly,” she deadpans. And some is downright hilarious, like Alison Kelly’s extended account of stalking her children after they’ve moved out of her house.
Under Wayne Harrison’s direction, all these moms know how to put the cap on a scene; their ability to craft delicious one-liners and deliver them with impeccable comic timing is exceptional. “I can’t find my passion—I can’t even find my glasses,” is one response to well-meaning advice for empty-nesters. Kelly shares a horrific realization from a spontaneous outing to the hardware store while house painting: “Turns out I can no longer pull off shabby chic.” And Williams warns her husband that he is “one fuckup away from a hideous, nonnegotiable death.” Over and over, I laughed to the point of tears.
Though the humour is well-crafted, the honesty and generosity at its heart are undeniable. These artists have been friends for decades, and one of the show’s unique gifts to audiences is that it lets us witness the delight they take in one another.
As in the previous episodes, low-budget simplicity characterizes the staging. Set and costume designer Pam Johnson fills the back wall with stacks of cardboard boxes, emblematic of the propensity of grown children to move out and move back in. Rolling chairs and pool noodles are all it takes to animate an underwater sequence dramatizing Pollard’s fantasies about her sexy aquafit instructor; an umbrella stands in for a parachute as Nichol recounts a skydiving adventure with her son. A show with this much heart doesn’t need fancy bells and whistles.
Whether or not you’ve seen the earlier installments, don’t miss Mom’s the Word 3. It’s filled with love, and it’s a winner.