Sex in Mommyville (8/19/2010)
For feminists marriage and motherhood have always been gray areas. While feminists of the seventies were quick to write off these roles as domestic slavery, some contemporary feminists have embraced these roles, finding that one can be an independent woman and still be a loving mother and wife. However, finding a balance between the roles of independent career woman as well as wife and mother can be a struggle. This struggle is at the crux of The Flea Theater’s production of the one woman show, Sex in Mommyville. The play’s main focus is the struggles a feminist faces when she finds her life focusing on maintaining a home for her children and husband, rather than pursuing her own professional and intellectual goals.
The play opens up while Fishbeyn’s character Artemis is in the process of writing an article for Bitch Magazine on the sex lives of mothers, explaining how both her pessimistic Russian immigrant parents and pregnancy lead to her dreams of writing being pushed aside for years. She tells us that sex with her husband has now become an “elusive dream”. Just how much of the play is based on real life experience is unclear as Fishbeyn is ostensibly playing a character. While all of the play’s material rings true from the get go, it could have been more moving had Fishbeyn based the experience on her own life rather than shrouding things with the guise of fiction. Fishbeyn excels as the play’s sole performer. She is warm and engaging from the get go, speaking to the audience as if they were a long lost friend stopping by for a visit. She makes use of the small stage well, effectively using physical humor as she enacts sexual situations with her husband. Surely, director Sande Shurin has a knack for staging and physical comedy. Fishbeyn launches into a humorous and highly accurate analysis of the stereotypes surrounding mothers, joking about the mothers who only have sex to please their husbands as well as the current pop culture phenomenon of the “MILF."
The first hour of the play focuses on her disastrous attempts to have hot sex with her husband due to the constant interruptions of her offspring. Many of the mothers in the audience (with surprisingly silent babies in hand) laughed hysterically throughout the work. My guess is that for those who have lived through the stress of motherhood, the jokes will hit spot on. After the first hour, Fishbeyn changes her comedic tone for a somber one, showing she is just as gifted at drama as she is at comedy. She delivers a heartfelt monologue on the frustration she feels as she attempts to be both a writer and a loving mother and wife. She feels that no matter which role she focuses on she is neglecting another.
At this point Fishbeyn walks to a series of screens at the back of the stage and begins to deliver an analysis of the current state of women in popular culture, looking at both the ageism and hyper focus on physical appearance that burdens women. Her talk is peppered with images of wrinkle cream and The Bachelor, an additional use of images would have made this segment even stronger. Her monologue, though not necessarily original, is both humorous and true, sounding a lot like a pop culture savvy version of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.
Fishbeyn concludes the play with Artemis admitting that there will never be clear answers for her in her struggles. In the end, she raises a shot to her fellow mothers , acknowledging that it is inevitable that in their lives they will at some point have to neglect or make compromises when it comes to their professional and academic aspirations. While Sex in Mommyville offers little in terms of definite answers, it raises important questions.