Amy Wilson in Mother Load
(© Joan Marcus)
Amy Wilson in Mother Load
(© Joan Marcus)
Once upon a time, one-person shows were either spectacular exhibitions of acting prowess or mesmerizing works of artful writing coupled with a keen actors' sense of style. Today, in order to get a one-person show mounted these days, it seems sufficient only to merely identify a target audience and write something that speaks to that group of people.

Mother Load, a solo narrative written and performed by Amy Wilson at The Sage Theater, ultimately wants to reassure its target audience -- young mothers -- that they are not failures if they don't do everything under the sun for their children. But this lightly comic and altogether satisfying piece has something to offer beyond its familiar take on having children.

At the top of the play, Wilson presents herself as a competitive, can-do person who pushes herself to excellence. Sure that she will be a good mother, she quickly discovers to her great horror that she "sucks" as a mom. Feeling that her every failure is lessening her child's chances for health, happiness and success, Wilson becomes driven to improve her skills.

Wilson then takes us through her early experiences with her first child, amusingly represented on stage by a green plastic toy version of The Hulk, and we suffer with her as she consistently falls short. Playing a variety of characters, Wilson gives her performance dynamic range. Yet, she is most effective when she speaks with a natural ease to the audience rather than when she's caught up in one of the play's more artificial set pieces.

Wilson is given some help in the pacing and presentation of her story by director Julie Kramer, but with uneven results. There are "expert advice" voice-overs that tell Wilson what she should be doing to raise her child; they might be funny if they weren't so wildly overused. On the other hand, there is a similar, but far more heightened, effect when Wilson makes a particularly controversial decision. The lighting design (Graham Kindred) turns hellish red, the sound design (Joe Miuccio) signifies danger, and we genuinely laugh -- because this device is used sparingly.

The play gains from its pure sense of authenticity. Wilson tells us that she has two children with a third on the way and we can clearly see that she is genuinely pregnant. Indeed, it is with the arrival of her second child that the play more quickly turns as Wilson wisely does not make the same mistakes twice. However, if the piece has a significant flaw it's that the end comes rather abruptly; it doesn't so much culminate in a dramatically satisfying finale as simply stop with a somewhat forced coda.

Nonetheless, Mother Load is an earnest and honest work that deserves its audience.