The Mother of Them All


Freedom Repertory Theatre at Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St., through July 3, 215-978-8497

"There oughta be a law," complains Spermegga, a surprisingly eloquent two-week-old baby, to the judge of a juvenile court. The only compensation for the ordeal of being dragged from the security of the womb, the baby argues, is the guarantee of unconditional love from both parents.

This is the first of the two lessons of Spermegga, conceived (a loaded word, in this case) and written by Clarice Taylor, who plays both the judge and the child — through various stages of her life from the womb through young adulthood — as well as Spermegga’s grandmother, her mother Eggna, her father Sperman and a handful of other characters.

Again and again the feisty grandmother reminds the young Spermegga that her parents love her unconditionally. And Spermegga receives this love, before our eyes, again and again, in a series of adorable vignettes: when she gets her first period, when she goes out on her first date, when she’s taught about sex by her grandmother, and when her father appears in time for the grandmother’s funeral and delivers the unconditional love that had been promised.

It’s not until the second half of the play that she and we learn the play’s second lesson: that however much they love you, men — the contributors of the sperm — just can’t be trusted.

What makes all this palatable is the almost-ferocious charm of Taylor in all of her many personae. She is — not just because of the number of roles she plays, but by virtue of sheer personality — a walking matriarchy. And in every character she plays, she shows us, with her disarming smile, that she won’t take no guff, and that she won’t take any prisoners. Walter Dallas directs — or should I say unleashes.

Cary M. Mazer