It's hard to identify any specific differences in this year's incarnation of The Passion of the Hausfrau, but the one-woman show, which debuted as part of Portland Stage Company's Little Festival of the Unexpected last year, is certainly more polished this time around. Lucky for audiences in PSC's black-box theater, none of the play's honest humor was lost in the refining process.
Bess Weldon's dramatization of motherhood's trials and joys — which she, Annette Jolles, and Nicole Chaison adapted from Chaison's Hausfrau muthah-zine — obviously appeals most to people who are intimately familiar with the play's subject matter, i.e. parents. For anyone who's had kids, this is a must-see, for its normalization of what often seems like unique insanity. Parents will appreciate the permission the show grants to see quotidian challenges (such as a trip to the grocery store with two children in tow, or a bout with lice) as epic battles. Plus, it reminds viewers of the humor in those episodes — humor that often remains shrouded when you're right in the thick of misery.
It's for that same reason that the show speaks even to childless theatergoers. The Passion of the Hausfrau is a story about forgetting — and then remembering — one's own potential, and that's a universal experience.
Word on the street is that Chaison's graphic memoir, The Passion of the Hausfrau: Motherhood, Illuminated, which Random House will release in June, is doing well in pre-sale. And the gang is hoping to take the show on the road; there's been interest in Chicago, New York, and Boston, and Weldon says she'd like some more opportunities to perform the role, which she inhabits so effortlessly. You can see her do so here in Portland for a few more days.
Hausfrau closes April 11. There are 8 pm shows on Thursday and Friday, and two shows on Saturday, at 3 and 8 pm. Visit portlandstage.com for more information.
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