Postpartum depression is generally no laughing matter. A report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that of the 52,000 moms interviewed across the country, instances of “Baby Blues” ranged from 11.7 percent to 20.4 percent, depending on the ages of the mothers and their respective locations. The tabloids have been filled with stories about the likes of Britney Spears and Brooke Shields on their struggles with this disorder, and of course the most tragic of all manifestations occurred when Texas mom Andrea Yates killed her five young children.
But wait – in the hands of a very talented Susanna Brisk, who wrote and performs in her original one-person play Mamafied, which opened Friday at The Edgemar Center for the Arts, we get a poignant but comedic glimpse into one woman’s personal fight to keep her sanity while raising two young toddlers whom she describes thusly: “It’s like living with two tiny stalkers.”
We watch her struggle as she tries to deal with the unending needs of her two children born less than a year apart. This can only be described as “hormone hell,” as hormone levels rise to several hundred times above normal during pregnancy and instantly drop following childbirth. Brisk covers a myriad of postpartum depression symptoms, quipping, “Only someone who worked for Britney would consider me emotionally stable,” or the recurring, “Mommy is crying because she’s happy,” or better yet, “God makes them cute so you don’t chloroform them.”
Revealing her insecurities as a parent, the monologue is riddled with hilarious insights, such as, “I was so insecure that I was afraid my son would run away from me when he learned how to walk.” Brisk succeeds in filling the stage with a cast of imaginary characters, including her colorful, pragmatic Russian mother who chides her depression by remarking, “If you want stability, buy a table.” Brisk also brings her slightly demented grandmother to life and a therapist who suggests she find a creative outlet, to which Brisk replies, “Creative outlet? I haven’t conditioned my hair in over a year.”
In the end, despite the tremendous challenge to her sanity, Brisk acknowledges that her kids saved her life and that “taking care of others is the only hope I have that someday I can take care of myself.”
One-person plays can be a challenge to stage, but director Michelle Danner manages to keep the action moving and makes excellent use of the simple set designed by Francois Pierre Couture, whose giant blow-ups of a baby bottle and pacifier set the tone for the sometimes overwhelming responsibility of motherhood. Hopefully, the deafening sound levels have been adjusted by now.
A special note in the program from Brisk reads: “Extra special thanks goes to my parents Sima and Vladimir who raised me to believe in humor as a brilliant survival mechanism,” and indeed Brisk learned her lessons well.
Mamafied is currently playing Fridays – Sundays through July 27 at The Edgemar Center For The Arts, 2437 Main Street. Reservations & ticket info: 310.392.7327