You may have never figured your mother’s inner monologue to be especially entertaining, but the ladies of Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged are proving otherwise. The five-woman show, which just ended a run at Centaur, celebrates the daily struggles faced by mothers of all kinds with decidedly fun-loving flair. Meanwhile, at Gesu, John Leguizamo’s Klass Klown had them bleeding in the aisles.
Unhinged Characters include a former bohemian who laments now “taking pleasure in an empty laundry basket,” and a forward-thinking matriarch with nothing but faith in a daughter whose slumber parties keep getting crashed by “uninvited” boys with booze. Beverley Elliot and Barbara Pollard prove the most engaging of the Moms, with ample stage presence, warmth and snappy comedic timing. They also do one heck of an impression of two middle-aged breasts, bewildered by their sudden proximity to the waist.
The show also owes much to Pam Johnson’s inventive and interactive set design. The colourful wall unit that serves as a backdrop transforms with each story, keeping the pace energetic in a show that stretches to fill two acts. By the mid-point, Unhinged begins abandoning the shorter sketches in favour of developing narrative plots for each of the leading ladies, seemingly in an effort to bring more hefty emotional content to the table. The inclusion of a breast cancer subplot comes off especially trite and unneeded in a show with a largely lighthearted tone. Hopefully, in future incarnations, Mom’s the Word will lose the storylines and intermission and stick to wry observations: “I began to look back at the 60’s with a sense of nostalgia … that was a time when you could shake some sense into your kids.”
It would also do well to condense the extended dance number that opens the second act (set to the Pussycat Dollz’ strip anthem “Dontcha”) and rethink the unnecessary nude scene. Unless you’re the kind of mother that would run out of the shower completely naked to answer your daughter’s question, and then act surprised and try to cover up, you’ll be unable to relate.
John Leguizamo’s career may not be the stuff of legends quite yet, but his one-man show Klass Klown will certainly help get his name out there, and might even land the seasoned actor another Tony nomination. Klown brings Leguizamo, a supporting-role veteran of film and television, back to his roots in theatre, and he clearly relishes the return. Over the course of two acts, he takes the audience on a journey from his humble beginnings in an immigrant family with an emotionally constipated father straight through every bump and victory of his acting career (with one rather glaring omission – the season he recently spent on NBC’s ER as Victor Clemente).
The anecdotes are interesting and his delivery is without flaw. Leguizamo is as nuanced a performer as one could hope to see, mixing deeply personal content with snappy sarcasm. Perhaps his greatest skill, however, is as an imitator. Without missing a beat, he recreates the voices of Patrick Swayze, Baz Luhrmann, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford and Steven Segal, all to hilarious effect.
Perhaps the only thing that wasn’t funny about the performance was the frankly appalling lack of interest on the part of the Gesu theatre staff, as a member of their audience sat bleeding in her seat after having half her toenail somehow snapped off by the chair in front of her during intermission. When asked afterwards why no member of the staff had assisted in her care – leaving other guests to seek out the first aid kit – or even asked the woman if she was alright … the staff simply rolled their eyes and laughed. Disgraceful.
Still, if she was willing to sit bleeding through the entire second act, you know it must be a good show.
Klass Klown hits Broadway in the fall. Stay tuned for more Mom’s the Word 2 productions coming up.