Illusion Theater's Fresh Ink offering "A Quartet of Mothers" is a must-see

By anne
July 25, 2008 - 18:11.

You know a play is written well when you keep recalling snippets of dialogue well into the next day. And you know that a piece is performed well when the actors’ facial expressions and vocal inflections so inform your understanding of the content as to become inseparable in your mind from their soliloquies.

All day today, I’ve been chuckling and choking back tears as I’m revisited by the most poignant and the most delightful moments of Illusion Theater’s A Quartet of Mothers.

Mothers is a duet of plays, each comprised of dozens of stories about every facet of motherhood, from the sublime (being asked by one’s pre-teen to “stay a while longer” in his room as he’s falling asleep) to the ridiculous (wild fantasies about trading one’s husband for a full-service gas station attendant who listens). And it’s not just for moms. My dad told me that he enjoyed it very much, too.

Starting out the evening is Aimee K. Bryant with her one-woman show Child of God, a single mother’s attempt to reconcile her own lack of fatherly influence in childhood, and to recognize the gift of love that she’s been given in her daughter.

Through storytelling, Aimee taps into every woman’s struggle: how to love and nurture ourselves as we so willingly and competently love and nurture others. And through Aimee’s mesmerizing voice, we are transported by the musical vibrations that have helped her to heal.

Aimee Bryant’s new CD, Becoming, starts out with the song “We Are” (“We are a grandmother’s prayer…we are a grandfather’s dreamings…we are a breath of the ancestors…we are the spirit of God”). It’s got a fabulous beat, a joyful noise that I recommend for your music library. Pick it up at Illusion Theater’s CD release party Monday night or online at

The second play is I’m Telling, written and performed by Darcey Engen, Maria Asp and Nanci Olesen. Thoughout the series of vignettes that flow from one mother’s story to the next, I wondered how it is that we can all be different kinds of mothers—working or stay-at-home, married or single, way-too-young or not-so-young, raising an “only” or a whole brood, well- or ill-prepared—and still experience the same range of emotions. The same incidents (baby screaming inconsolably, toddler eating gravel, grade-schooler adoring us, teenager hating us, graduate flying the coop). The same desire to be fully a mother and yet to be fully ourselves.

I’m Telling is a rich compilation of nerves and nostalgia, of realism and hope. If you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and/or a Lutheran with a funny bone, you’ll want to see this. I also enjoyed the musical talent of this trio, who sang bluegrass and folksongs, and who among them play guitar, mandolin, autoharp, piano, and harmonica.

The Illusion Theater’s Fresh Ink series has always been a good bet. This is their last performance before fall season begins. Don’t miss it!

A Quartet of Mothers runs through Sunday, July 27. Tickets $15. Reserve online at or call the box office at 612-339-4994.

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