Predating cave paintings, perhaps the most ancient art form is the art of storytelling. Every culture that has as ever existed has some version of it. It can be said, that this is what separates us from the animals. Religion, education, politics, entertainment, even interpersonal relationships all have a strong foundation in storytelling. However, with the recent obsession over modern monsters of fast-paced pseudo-communication, there is a sinking feeling that traditional storytelling is a thing of the past. Which is why we should all be grateful for storytelling shows like Don't Tell My Mother.
There is a need, not only for storytelling shows, but also for engaging, exciting theatrical experiences. And Don't Tell My Mother is an event that lives up to the hype. Beyond being fun and entertaining, DTMM develops a genuine connection to its audience. Communication has definitely changed, and it will take society quite a while to catch up. Contemporary communication is like an Apple product release. Every time a new iPhone or iPod or iPad is released, there are kinks and issues that must be ironed out. Don't Tell My Mother is like a nice, beautiful leather-bound book that does exactly what is designed to do. In a world of glitches and unsupportive tech-support, it is nice to have such a thing.
Mary Birdsong laments at Don't Tell My Mother. Photo Credit: Lowell Hiles & Megan Swormstedt
Don't get me wrong -- the production is in no way old-fashioned. It is edgy, fresh and full of ebullience. The concept itself employs an ingenious idea that makes you eager to see the show: exclusivity. Right in the title it is understood that these are stories the raconteur does not want you to tell their mother. This leads to a second ingenious concept that evokes a Pavlovian response: scandalous gossip. People always want to hear the dirt. We've all heard somebody divulge, "I really shouldn't tell you this, but..." Then they look around to see that nobody listening, as you patiently await the tempting morsel of privileged information. They lower their voice to a whisper, and you lean in, ready devour every, single word. Going into a theater with that kind of anticipation is great for a performance, but the show must deliver the goods. And this one definitely does.
The Mother's Day edition started off with an intriguing recollection of re-enacted birth. Co-creator and producer Nikki Levy told an honest, loving tribute to her mom about their uniquely close relationship ... that was, at times, too close for comfort. Nikki's nostalgic look at growing up ran the gamut of amusing, moving and poignant. Then there was an explosive comedic voice that nearly stole the show. (Though the show could not be stolen, as it was absolutely solid throughout.) Jen Kober hijacked the stage like a house of fire. Starting off slowly, yet loudly, Kober beat the audience into submission with her high-energy sarcastic and observational stories. Finally, the whole thing was topped off with Mary Birdsong's graceful and hilarious portrait of the woman who raised her. Delicate dysfunction seemed to be a reoccurring theme followed by genuine affection and maternal endearment. It seems as if everybody has fucked up stories, but under it all, there are profound amounts of love.
Jen Kober bursts energy at Bang. Photo Credit: Lowell Hiles & Megan Swormstedt
The great thing about storytelling shows is, unlike most plays or movies, you get a fantastic variety. What you end up with is a medley of unique perspectives, interconnected through one unifying subject. Another area of exponential success is the interesting storytellers that are booked on this show. Past performers include Erin Foley, Lauren Weedman, Justin Halpern, Kay Sedia & Mary Birdsong. If you missed those wonderful people, don't fret. Future performers include Loraine Newman, Laurie Kilmartin, Tom Lenk & Andy Dick. I sincerely look forward to future adventures of this gem. So despite what the title instructs, go ahead, tell your mother! Tell everybody you know about Don't Tell My Mother.
Don't Tell My Mother will be back with their Father's Day show on Thursday, June 28. Follow them on twitter for updates on tickets! Don't Tweet My Mother