Moms go wild in Meredith Taylor-Parry’s Book Club.
Enjoying its world premiere at Lunchbox Theatre, Book Club stages a group of moms who meet weekly to talk about some book no one ever bothers to read. The thing about book club, it’s just an excuse to have a glass of wine (or two) in the afternoon. Everyone’s in the loop except for Ellen (Anna Cummer), an uptight helicopter parent whose children follow a strict gluten-sensitive diet.
This week’s meeting is hosted by Lisa (Cheryl Hutton), an easy going mom with a not-so-easy time cleaning up her house for the ladies. Ellen arrives with her mother Mary (Kathryn Kerbes) just as Lisa finishes cleaning the kitchen floor with baby wipes. A very pregnant Kathy (Kira Bradley) arrives soon after, a relief for Lisa who can’t tolerate Ellen’s bragging about her perfect children. To the group’s surprise, Jenny (Arielle Rombough) is late. Supermom Jenny is never late.
A couple of drunk texts later from Jenny, and the women are off to find their missing friend in all of the unlikeliest places – a strip club, a tattoo parlour, and the airport.
Taylor-Parry’s Book Club is a comedy of familiarity, of knowing nods and quiet agreement from its mainly female audience. Lisa’s frustration at trying to tidy up while keeping an eye on her mischevious children draws big laughs as it’s one of those “yup, been there, done that” moments. For Taylor-Parry, however, it’s not just about showing the stresses of motherhood, but also talking through them, no matter how difficult the conversation.
Beneath the play’s rich humour are layers of anxiety and insecurities towards motherhood. Even Ellen doubts her parenting, and she does everything by the book, or whatever research study is trending. As the women discover, there is no manual for mothers and mothers-to-be. A lot of it is trial and error, that’s how it was for Mary whose “old school ways” were exactly that. With this uncertain territory comes a need for support, ideally in the form of friendship and maybe not a glass of wine (or two) in the afternoon.
Taylor-Parry’s serious concern for mothers and their mental health is beautifully expressed by Rombough in the play’s last moments. Rombough’s erratic, party girl behaviour is anchored by a genuine sincerity that offers plenty reflection on the work-life balance some mothers struggle with daily.
Director Shari Wattling is gifted with a truly outstanding cast for this book club meeting that’s anything but boring. There’s plenty of great things going on, from Cummer’s signature hyper-neuroticism running against Kerbes’ elegant maturity to Hutton’s splendid talent for physical comedy. Add in Bradley’s hilarious maneuvering of her comically-sized belly (costume design by Deitra Kalyn), and the laughs are non-stop. Watting’s snappy direction gives the actors room to play, while also being mindful of the final destination. Excellent direction for a ‘journey play’, which can sometimes drag and lose the audience along the way.
Scenic & Lighting Designer Anton de Groot’s versatile set changes from messy kitchen to strip club to rough street area with ease. Allison Lynch’s robust sound design brings the club alive with heart-pounding beats.
A brilliant script, strong direction, and outstanding cast make Meredith Taylor-Parry’s Book Club worth signing up for.
Meredith Taylor-Parry’s Book Club runs Feb 8 – 27 at Lunchbox Theatre.
For more information about the show, visit: http://www.lunchboxtheatre.com/book-club