How much longer must we endure the whining of affluent, nonworking suburban mothers who choose to stay home to raise their children (usually with considerable domestic help) and then find themselves suffering from a certain anomie? In Kathleen Clark’s new “comedy” Secrets of a Soccer Mom, now at the Snapple Center under the direction of Judith Ivey, sidelined athlete Alison (played by the buff Caralyn Kozlowski) complains about her workaholic husband and compares her plight to that of a single mother. In reality, the very notion is an insult to the real single mothers of the world, most of whom daily rise to challenges that the three commiserating housewives in Secrets can’t even begin to imagine.
Alison’s counterparts are Nancy (Nancy Ringham), an ex-model who longs to be a photographer but has only a bag of undeveloped film canisters to show for her ambition, and Lynn (Deborah Sonnenberg), who is one of those martyr-like PTA moms who, while trying to guilt-trip other parents into greater participation, ends up shouldering the bulk of the burden. We meet the trio at an annual soccer match between mothers and sons, during which, it is understood, the adult women will go easy on the immature boys.
In between bouts, Alison and Nancy shout encouragement and warnings to their (unseen) offspring, while Lynn sets up a workstation on a trashcan — a nice visual joke in Ivey’s generally rather static staging. You know it’s just a matter of time until the personal revelations start trickling out. Alison is the one with the most salient secret. An affair is in the air — the only suspense lies in whether it’s hers or her husband’s. Finally, after an hour and a half of clichéd soul-searching, the action finally opens up as the moms take to the field — and give the game their all.
While the competent trio of actresses must be commended for their ability to whip up impassioned speeches out of thin material, their unseen significant others never assume any heft, nor do their generic “kids,” the ones for whom they’ve sacrificed their lives and profess their all-consuming love. As a result, it’s rather hard to care about any of these women’s plights.
Of the three ladies, put-upon Lynn gets the best lines, and Sonnenberg — a schlub among glamazons — gives them a wide-eyed comic kick. You do end up feeling for benighted Alison, not because she finally asserts herself (egged on by her new support group) but because Kozlowski is so bouncy and cute. In Ringham’s rendition, Nancy seems like someone worth getting to know better — even if Clark muddies up the character, creating a closet depressive who happens to have enviable charisma and social skills.
It seems especially ironic that many of the principals involved in this venture are themselves working mothers who apparently have managed to maintain a means of self-expression while not stinting on the home front. So why are they throwing this pity party for mothers who chose another path and are left riddled with regret and feeling that they’re “missing out on something”?