Parent? Child? You’re A Hoot!….

                                                                                                                                                    February 29, 2012

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back….William D. Tammeus

Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body….Elizabeth Stone

What’s it like to be a parent?  No, what’s it really like?  Is it possible to make the entire experience hilarious?

Turns out it is.

The four busy actors in RATED P FOR PARENTHOOD – Courtney Balan, David Josefsberg (both in photo), Joanna Young, and Chris Hoch – play many, many parts in this 90-minute romp at the Westside Theater/Upstairs. 

They play parents, grandparents, and children in every imaginable combination to demonstrate the “life cycle” of a child, starting with Mom’s pregnancy, and ending with the kid’s first day of college. 

Somehow, the talented four-some switch partners and change ages without a hitch, and they make all the characters they play entirely believable.

The show is broken down into 22 short sketches, each of which finds humor in the everyday life of a parent.  Of course, things inevitably go wrong much of the time, as they probably do in real life.  (Full disclosure: I’ve never had or raised a child, so I relied on the reactions of the younger audience-members at times, and saw the audience roar with laughter.)

Three of the sketches were my personal favorites:

  • Two gay, male partners are raising triplets who are just at the onset of puberty.  The parents are dismayed to find that not only are the triplets all hetero, they’ve discovered boobs on the internet.  Their solution is to allow the triplets five minutes a day for “supervised boob-watching”.  This satisfied the parents, while also showing they didn’t understand the internet very well;
  • A mother’s parents come over on Sunday night to babysit their darling grandchild.  Mom and Dad are nervous about leaving their child, this being the first time.  While cooing at the baby, the grandparents go out of their way to drive their daughter and son-in-law so crazy they’ll never again be asked to give up their Sunday evenings;
  • Two moms lose their cool, and possibly stand to lose more than that, when they flip out over their kids’ hunky English soccer coach.  It’s one of those rare times we get to see women feeling lustful, a treat perhaps due to the talented and funny Sandy Rustin, RATED P FOR PARENTHOOD’s very female bookwriter.

The songs, with music by Dan Lipton and David Rossmer, and lyrics by the two of them plus Rustin, are tuneful, but – more important – the lyrics are insightful, sometimes telling the audience what the character is feeling but can’t tell the others in the scene.  Rustin keeps the interest and humor levels high throughout the 22 sketches, which is no small trick.

Just as it couldn’t have been easy for director Jeremy Dobrish to keep things flowing despite the sometimes distracting blackouts at the end of each sketch.  Dobrish’s directing is masterful throughout, pulling together the many elements of the show, and never letting things flag.

I will say the disadvantage of this dramatic form (in addition to the blackouts) is the need for the audience to applaud at the end of each sketch.  Applauding 22 times became an obligation after a while, but it was instructive to hear which sketches got the most applause.

Rachel Brass is credited as the choreographer, but – since the show has no real dancing – I assume her contribution was to the movement, which was smooth and intelligent.

All the actors were good, and highly versatile, but I’ll point especially to the hilarious Courtney Balan, who often had us in stiches.  When the tall Balan played a child, it was a testament both to her talent and to the audience’s willingness to follow the show’s conventions that she was completely convincing.

The designers are Steven Capone (sets), Emily DeAngelis (costumes), and Michael Gottlieb (lighting)  The set’s a clever wall of light boxes that change color to signify a new sketch.  Two screens high on the wall are used several times for texting, which was both timely and funny.

All in all, a show very worth seeing, especially if you’re a parent.

Rating (5 stars possible):  (***½)

The bottom line:  What a parent has lived through, or can expect to live through, always laugh-filled

Who should go?  Anyone, though I think younger people might relate better than those whose children are older than the parents in the show

 Do I recommend it?  Yes


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