"It's a baby, not a bomb. It's a baby, not a bomb." Lauren Weedman chants half-jokingly, taking terrified steps backward to escape an imaginary blinking newborn. In this vignette, from her new one-woman play No...You Shutup, which premiered at Boise Contemporary Theater, Weedman visits the expansive Los Angeles mansion of a man we assume is an ex, his startled wife and their bundled baby. Her breathless stream of compliments on hallway drapery, peppered with subtle stabs at her current boyfriend and the Baja Fresh franchise across from the apartment she shares with him, hardly mask the central issue at play—Weedman wants a kid of her own and that terrifies her.
Fortunately, Weedman's sparsely decorated, one-woman play about motherhood is not nearly as tediously saccharine as that description would lead you to believe. She's far too flawed, flustered and foul-mouthed for that kind of feel-goodery. No, Weedman's new comedy is a gut-clutchingly frank, partially autobiographical journey that winds through a gynecologist's office, a gay gym and a funeral parlor in the eight days before Mother's Day, as Weedman comes to terms with those two, often-inseparable F-words: failure and family.
Though the stage design, created by the Modern Hotel's interior designer Kerry Tullis, is starkly minimalist with simple, high school bleacher-esque wood benches and an inexplicable splotch of green turf grass, Weedman skips around the space, adding color and depth to all that she touches. In a deep-cut, purple American Apparel T-shirt, a star belt and gray-brown khakis, she seems to fit naturally in Hannah K.E. Read's costuming. Whether it's booty dancing to Fergie or mellowing out to Enya, Leah Stephens Clark's choreography helps punctuate Weedman's skits and provides the play's most avant garde flourishes.
In No...You Shutup, Weedman lives with her widower boyfriend David and his teenage son Jack in a home "where the word 'mother' has already been taken." No stranger to feeling out of place, Weedman grew up as an adopted child in the Midwest, where she learned to garner attention by turning both daily mishaps and greater tragedies into fodder for her self-deprecating comedy. Watching Weedman frantically reveal tidbits about her family life, from being introduced to her birth mother (her "BM") to inheriting her adopted mom's "Too Pooped to Party" figurine set, we're able to glean the origins of Weedman's insecurities about starting a family of her own.
Though No...You Shutup is the second play Weedman has performed at BCT, following 2007's buzzed about hit Bust, it's her first world premiere in Boise. Weedman and her boyfriend, the play's director Jeff Weatherford, are based out of Los Angeles, which provides fodder for a contemptuous, yet passive, look at the frivolities and decorum of "The Industry." Whether Weedman is playing a TV executive who grinningly chastises her for talking about "bodily fluid stuff" at big network pitches, or a sleazy gynecologist who croons, "Hey, hey pretty lady. Put your feet in the stirrups and spread your legs," Weedman nails the impersonations flawlessly. At the same time, she's so unabashedly complicit in the events that transpire throughout the play that her character becomes just another one of the eccentrics that she harpoons.
A particularly revealing scene finds Weedman at The Lost Lambs Adoption Agency after she's decided to split with her boyfriend. She tells a lispy, older receptionist that she's "just browsing," but gets sucked into watching a promotional video about an adopted Chinese baby whose name means "girl who does not adapt." As Weedman fills out an application, citing income, age and marital status, she realizes that her time to adopt might have already passed and that, maybe, she should take a closer look at the family that she already has: her boyfriend and his son.
Ultimately, the pleasure of watching Weedman struggle through these awkward situations is the fact that her humor doesn't overpower the oh-so-relatable emotion lurking beneath. Though Weedman completely overhauled No...You Shutup just days before the play opened, the results couldn't seem more expertly rehearsed or the story more round. And whether that's more of a comment on Weedman's ability to dredge through her personal emotional reserves to find compelling stories, or her ability to pull through under pressure, No...You Shutup provides the perfect showcase for the talents of this sometimes neurotic, sometimes vulnerable, always charming, one-woman phenom.
No...You Shutup runs through Dec. 13. For times, tickets and more information, visit bctheater.org or call 208-331-9224. Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St.