I’m a believer in going to plays effectively blind; I don’t read reviews or synopses or interviews because ideally the performance should speak for itself. Prior to MotherStruck! I only knew that Stacyann Chin is a feminist poet, memoirist and performance artist originally from Jamaica. Similarly, all I knew about the play was that it’s a one woman, self-written play. I’m always dubious of self-written one person shows because I’ve seen a few that are quite indulgent, so I was worried about how much I would enjoy this play.
Almost immediately I realized my fears were unfounded; Stacyann is a master of the stage and filled the intimate theatre with charisma, energy and vulnerability from start to finish. The play is an exploration of her relationship with, and journey to, motherhood; beginning with her strict aunt in Jamaica, touching on her mostly absent mother and culminating in her present fears about the impact she is making on her daughter Zuri (who made an appearance after the show and is the cutest). The twists and turns her life has taken are almost unbelievable, and yet are so relatable that I don’t think a single person could watch this show and not identify in some way.
Despite the sometimes heavy subject matter she kept us laughing through anecdotes about shouting Eminem lyrics during her intense labor pains, her endless cycle of relationships, and noticing her toddler daughter shredding tampons on the floor.
She marries humorous moments like these seamlessly with moments of heartbreak and uncertainty, both in regard to her extraordinarily rocky road to pregnancy and her relationships with the mother figures in her life. Each moment and memory she acts out feels so present and real, which is only possible as a result of Chin’s full embodiment of these other figures. She acts as her mother, her aunt, her daughter, a Canadian doctor, and various passersby with equal ease, allowing this one woman show to come with a full cast of characters.
The set design, lighting and costumes are all far less important to the success of the play than Chin herself, and the production team clearly knows this as everything is unobtrusive. The only set piece is an ottoman which allowed Chin to freely and energetically move around the stage. She moves not only around the stage but up the two aisles of the theatre, sometimes engaging directly with the audience, making everyone feel that they are living the story with her.
Overall, MotherStruck! is a moving, heartily enjoyable show that will make you reflect on your own mother figures and upbringing while laughing heartily at the familiar absurdities we all face on a daily basis. Stacyann Chin is dynamic on the stage and has an uncanny ability to relay her own experiences in a compelling, highly engaging and humorous way.