Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Slight Soccer Mom Settles for Easy Clichés
There is really no reason to get into a huff about Confessions of a Soccer Mom, Kathleen Clark's very slight and inoffensive comedy clearly aimed at a female demographic. However, I do think that Women's Theatre Company artistic director Barbara Krajkowski can and should do better.
The seventy-five minute, one-act play is set on the sidelines of a soccer field in a metropolitan area suburb. Three mothers mouth the usual clichés which are the currency of plays about suburban women, mostly well-to-do and educated, who are conflicted about their roles of stay at home moms. As is de rigueur, one of the women seems less well to do and educated than the others, but she has grit and native wisdom which stands her in good stead for the final moments when the three form a collegial bond.
Our mothers are participating in a moms vs. children soccer game which has them rotating on and off the field throughout the play. As their dissatisfaction and frustrations about their husbands, lives, image and self-image rise to the surface, their decision to throw the game to their eight year old or so tykes evolves into a determination to defeat the aggressive, mocking youngsters.
Under the expert direction of Krajkowski, three talented actresses do eventually manage to bring a bit of life to the proceedings in a sequence in which the actresses mime the mothers' determined, on-field efforts to the music of Aaron Copeland. The exceptionally talented Elizabeth Mozer plays Nancy with an intimidating cool sophistication of the women who dominate coaches and their peers. I can't say that the text really supports any such strong interpretation, but as a one-time sports dad in an elite New Jersey town, I certainly recognized the reality of her Nancy. I'm sure the talented actress is displaying great skill rather than her natural inclinations. You see, there was this doctor's wife who dominated a town baseball team and withheld helpful and needed information from parents not in her private social group ... While I digress, the reality of the politics of the interaction among sports moms and dads is far more interesting than anything that Kathleen Clark has written.
Robin Marie Thomas portrays Lynn, a quintessential volunteer mom who is up to her armpits in managing school trips and projects. Lynn is a physically discombobulated stock comic character, and Thomas fully and effortlessly embodies all the qualities which author Clark has drawn Lynn. The good-hearted Lynn suffers from poor self-image, believing that the working moms in particular look down on her. Of course, a good percentage of them certainly would, but this issue is totally unexplored.
Nancy Kutzer is a natural in the role of the rough-hewn and athletic Allison. It is Allison who cannot understand the concept of letting the children win the soccer match from the get go. Having recently had the great pleasure of playing just well enough to be edged out in a ping pong game by an adorable 11-year-old, the angry competitiveness of the moms struck me as neither attractive nor exhilarating.
I could describe in excruciating detail the outfits, rings, earrings, necklaces and footwear (sneakers) worn by each of the women as I needed some activity to help pass the time during the soporific Soccer Mom, but suffice it to say that Lauren Mills' spiffy costume made a substantial contribution toward defining each mom.
Confessions of a Soccer Mom is innocuous (and certainly not as aggravating as Clark's Southern Comforts, which with humorous intent celebrates a horrid, domineering female senior). Still, given all the entertainment options available today, theatergoers should be rewarded for their attendance with sturdier entertainment. Given that this play is directly aimed at women, perhaps I should note that my BW's review of Confessions of a Soccer Mom is "It was cute. I had a nice time." If Confessions of a Soccer Mom sounds interesting to you then perhaps my BW's few words will be more useful to you than all of my verbiage.
Confessions of a Soccer Mom played through June 7, 2009 at the Women's Theater Company at the Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, NJ, 07034; Box Office: 973-316-3033; online: www.womenstheater.org.
Confessions of a Soccer Mom by Kathleen Clark; directed by Barbara Krajkowski