The Passion of the Hausfrau

I went to see The Passion of the Hausfrau at Portland Stage Company last night. To be honest, I was kinda not looking forward to it ahead of time, and for the first 10 minutes or so, I thought to myself, “This would be funnier if I had kids.” (The raucous laughter of most women in the audience supported my theory.)

But as the evening wore on, Bess Welden made it impossible not to laugh, as she dramatized the trials and hysterical tribulations of motherhood over the course of an hour and a half. Kids or no kids, this energetic woman’s portrayal of the crazy life and conflicting demands of a young mother – complete with impersonations of needy children, overbearing moms, and Joseph Campbell (you’ll see) – is comedic genius. And when Welden received a standing ovation at the end of her performance, she wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes.

The show is based on the experiences chronicled by Portlander Nicole Chaison (who was in the audience) in her Hausfrau muthah-zine. Welden, Chaison, and Annette Jolles adapted the zine into a one-woman show, which follows a frazzled housefrau’s (housewife's) mythical journey through self-doubt, to self-actualization. It addresses the eternal questions: Do good moms have to give up their own dreams? Is being a stay-at-home mother something to be ashamed of? How can women balance their intellectual (and physical) desires with the realities of motherhood?

The show was presented as a reading last night as part of the 19th Annual Little Festival of the Unexpected (which itself is part of the PSC’s Phoenix-sponsored Studio Series). It’ll also be performed this Saturday, May 17th, at 5 p.m. I highly recommend it.

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