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Little Lake's Motherhood Out Loud 

The moments of cliché are offset by interesting insights and odd chuckles.

Lindsey Bowes, Amy Hoffmann and Mary Liz Meyer in Little Lake's Motherhood Out Loud.

Photo courtesy of James Orr.

Lindsey Bowes, Amy Hoffmann and Mary Liz Meyer in Little Lake's Motherhood Out Loud.

Yes, indeed, the Little Lake Theatre Co. does serve deep-dish apple pie to accompany its deep-dish Motherhood Out Loud. An ensemble of seven, under the direction of artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett, performs a very mixed collection of 20 vignettes by 14 writers: [deep breath here] Leslie Ayvazian, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman, Cheryl L. West and Brooke Berman.

Spanning motherhood from belabored labor room through empty nests to senior moments, the monologues/scenes range from barely comic sketches and manipulative heart-tuggers to brief, satisfying one-acts, with the occasional gem. Chalk one up for Henley's signature mad Southern women, as great-grandmother Mary Liz Meyers gives Lindsey Bowes, a credible credulous child, more than she bargains for in "Report on Motherhood." Brian Edward happily channels Cale's two characters in "Elizabeth."

Motherhood, originally conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein and staged in 2010, includes some at-least-semi-autobiographical pieces, particularly "Michael's Date," LaZebnik's monologue on raising an autistic child, touchingly delivered by Mary Quinlan. In Pennette's "If We're Using a Surrogate, How Come I'm the One With the Morning Sickness," Edward mixes sensitivity, anger and laughs into the story of a gay father. Also notable are "Threesome," Ayvazian's take on the surprising silence when her musician-son leaves the nest, featuring Lisa Hoffmann and Edward; and "Nooha's List," Issaq's over-the-top explanation of PMS and its advantages, sympathetically portrayed by real mother-daughter duo Lisa and Amy Hoffmann.

While most writer-contributors (not all of them playwrights) are represented only once, Lowe fills in with some fast "Fugues." More satisfying and serious is the bizarre "Queen Esther," with the ever-ebullient Meyers as a divorced mom piloting hazardous custody waters while dealing with her son's identity and wardrobe choices.

While the show has its tiresome moments of cliché and obviousness, it has enough interesting insights and odd chuckles to make it worthwhile. Little Lake's ambitious production deserves applause after the tears and the laughs.

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