Actress shares trials, tribulations of 'A Mom's Life'

September 21, 1990|By Henry Scarupa

Actress Kathryn Grody takes several deep breaths on th phone and explains, "We are in the midst of making apple sauce from fresh picked apples that we picked in the country yesterday. We are making French toast, which is burning because they [Isaac, 8, and Gideon, 4] are fighting about which apples they can cut. It's pathetic!"

Mothers of the '90s often face the seemingly irreconcilable demands of a career and those of young children, sometimes with sticky fingers.

Ms. Grody has dealt with this frustration by taking such incidents from motherhood to create a one-woman play in which she stars, acting out the tribulations. "A Mom's Life" opened earlier this year at New York's Public Theater for a two-month run during March and April. The play comes to town Sunday for a single performance at 3 p.m. at Westminster Hall, as part of the Command Performance Series of the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

The wife of singer Mandy Patinkin, Ms. Grody and her husband had resolved to split child care 50-50 when the first of their two children arrived eight years ago. It was a nice idea, but unworkable.

"It was very different from what I had imagined," says Ms. Grody, who came to motherhood in her mid-30s. "It felt like I entered another planet -- suddenly, the labor of it."

The L. A. native was inspired to write "A Mom's Life" by her own experience. Her aim, she says, was to dramatize both the trials and the joys of motherhood.

The play follows Mom and the kids throughout a single day, starting early one morning while it's still dark, with Mom in the rocker trying to get the youngest child to sleep so she can go back to bed. As soon as she lays her head down on the pillow, Gideon lets out a loud wail. From then on it's go-go action all day long, until night, with the two-time Obie winner playing all the parts.

The one disclaimer the actress makes regarding heperformance is that it does not depict her husband, who has been wholeheartedly supportive of her career, but rather a generic spouse, more like the men she imagines most working women live with. In real life, Mr. Patinkin occasionally takes on the role of house husband, caring for the children full time, while Ms. Grody is away working, such as the six weeks during the filming of the current motion picture "The Lemon Sisters."

Despite the play's many lighthearted episodes, Ms. Grody wasurprised to find it was highly provocative for some viewers, touching a raw nerve.

"People have had strong reactions to the play and heated discussions afterward," she observes. "I didn't expect that. One night a woman architect, who had been a stay-at-home mother for the last four years caring for two young kids, came backstage in tears and thanked me for legitimizing her experience in front of her husband. Why did it take this play to do that?"

'A Mom's Life'

Where: Westminster Hall, 515 W. Fayette St.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: $10.


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