Latté Da’s ‘Mother’ is a lode of laughs

November 5, 1998.By Rohan Preston, Star Tribune.

Show mines mother-son relationships

To lose weight or to be proud of your big ol’ butt: That is but one of the questions explored in the hilarious comedy and cabaret show “[Expletive]…I’m Turning Into My Mother.”

Produced by Theatre Latté Da under the direction of Peter J. Rothstein, “Mother” soars by plumbing universal experiences with mothers, mostly in a tender way. This lode of wit, which centers on Tod Petersen’s evocation of his mom in Mankato, Minn., features heart-felt singing and plenty of laughs.

The show intersperses music amid monologues, centering on actor Petersen’s take on the mother-son dynamic. It also features additional material by Rob Hartmann, Bridget Carpenter and Tim Murphy.

In one bit, Petersen saunters across the stage to demonstrate his mother’s pride and false modesty about shedding pounds. With his back to the audience at the Loring Playhouse in Minneapolis, he says: “She would put on some snug jeans and walk across the room expecting to be notices. I would compliment her on her figure and butt and she would say [Petersen smiles slyly an waves a hand across his rear end], ‘Oh, that big, ol’ thing!”

Such deadpan, portrayals are a part of “Mother’s” charm. When Petersen dons an apron checkered with scenes that could be from Noah’s Ark, then wrinkles his brow and looks out with a “come let Mama smooch you” expression, he summons not only his mother but Everymother.

Petersen uses his body, voice, hands and a few props to illustrate his vignettes, and he doesn’t overdo it. When he comes close – as when he whiningly recalls his family’s singing as a band in church – he keeps it mercifully short.

Petersen’s onstage colleagues – actor/singers Aimee Bryant and Katy Elsen – play it straight-laced against his off-kilter characterizations. Accompanied by supple pianist Denise Prosek, Bryant and Elsen sing maternal-themed numbers that both celebrate and amplify the role of “mother” beyond parenting and into the realm of pop culture.

For example, a medley of songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb – “Don’t Tell Mama” from “Cabaret,” and “When You’re Good to Mama” from the musical “Chicago” – treat “mama” as a source of sexual dynamism. And there’s the powerful woman who pulls the “Apron Strings” (the Tracey Thorn/Ben Watt song performed by the pop group Everything But the Girl), though she may be underappreciated (“Just a Housewife,” Craig Carnelia’s song from “Working”).

Bryant delivers in a sweet and dreamy voice while Elsen, whose timing is inexact, is best at low volume. Still, that’s a teeny quibble with “Mother.”

In a show that actually serves up homemade cookies before the end of the evening, who wants to worry about calories?

Oh…I’m Turning Into My Mother Who: Conceived and directed by Peter J. Rothstein with original material by Tod Petersen, Rob Hartmann, Bridget Carpenter and Tim Murphy. Where: Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis. When: 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14 and 21; 7 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 15; 8 p.m. Monday, and 1 and 3 p.m. Nov. 22. Review: A hysterical and touching tribute to Petersen’s mother, this comedy and cabaret show features music and vignettes. In summoning his mother from Mankato, Minn., Petersen summons a part of all mothers. Tickets: $10. 612-337-6666.