Review of Like Mother at N.C. Stage

  Like Mother, a one-woman show written and performed by Shannon Polly, is the first offering of North Carolina Stage Company’s last three plays of the season, running in repertory. It is a love/hate/mostly love letter to Polly’s mother and her wedding planning antics. Polly begins by assuring us that everything we’re about to see actually happened, and that this will become more difficult to believe as the show continues. Perhaps because a lot of this is nearly identical to my imagination of what my wedding would have been like had my mother been involved in the planning, I didn’t find a whole lot of it too hard to believe (though it is all quite funny and incredulous-head-shake-inducing) … until the themed shower. I do not want to spoil any details, including the theme itself, but Polly, performing as her overzealous, hilariously hypercritical mother at this point, guides the audience through the shower accoutrements in what I would consider the bold highlight of a very entertaining show.
   
Polly’s winning story-telling style smoothly transitions from completely conversational to highly theatrical, as she plays primarily herself and her mother, blending spoken narration with a mix of somewhat forgettable original songs with a few cute parodies of some familiar show tunes. The originals are often lyrically charming but a bit melodically uninspired; a very notable exception is the lovely “How Much Love Can a Heart Hold?” by Michael John LaChiusa, which, if my Google-fu is on point, was actually first written to frame the production of Requiem for William in which Polly performed with the Transport Group in New York. The saving grace for any lackluster in the music, though, is the musicianship; Polly’s effortless soprano carries the tunes beautifully while musical director Aaron Price accompanies her on keyboard and with the occasional unexpected cartoon-esque sound effect.
 
Like Mother, perfect at one-hour running time, is a delightfully frothy and witty piece that definitely had me smiling and even frequently laughing out loud. It would be appealing to most anyone who has planned a wedding, been in a wedding, hates weddings, loves weddings or simply has a mother who knows exactly how to show her love and support in all the most galling ways. An appreciation for and at least passing familiarity with musical theatre certainly doesn’t hurt either.
   
The scheduling for the repertory shows may be a little daunting to navigate, so here’s the legwork. Like Mother plays at N.C. Stage at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, and June 10, 12, and 13, and at 2 p.m. on June 6 and 13. See www.ncstage.org for more information, particularly about their “choose your own ticket price” offering.

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