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Theater review: In Baby Mama, Mariah MacCarthy fights the maternal instinct

Written by
Jenna Scherer

Your average solo show tends to have a whiff of the confessional: one actor before a roomful of people like a convert testifying, or a repentant AA speaker. But there's something particularly purgative about Baby Mama: One Woman's Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People, Mariah MacCarthy's show recounting her experience with pregnancy and adoption in New York City.

The subtitle is a bit of a misnomer: Although Baby Mama does partially chronicle the playwright-performer's trials as a birth mother steering her newborn toward the couple of her choice, it's not the crux of the piece. It's more about MacCarthy's struggle with the complexity of her situation. Pregnant after a one-night stand and not interested in having an abortion, she opts for adoption but also struggles with a desire to keep the infant.

MacCarthy doesn't pull any punches as she describes juggling her artistic and sexual life alongside, y'know, gestating a human being in her womb, describing both the joys and the isolation of her situation. She details her day-to-day, shuttling between ultrasounds and impromptu orgies, doulas and burlesque shows, in vivid (and sometimes graphic) detail. MacCarthy's narration of her life circa 2012 is funny, moving and unapologetically candid, as is her performance.

At the same time, it's hard not to feel like we're missing something in the singularity of perspective in Baby Mama. I found myself wanting to know more about the people on the fringes of the story: the gay couple that she finds to adopt her son; the various friends and lovers who offer her support. As it is, MacCarthy glosses over moments that seem to warrant more exploration than they're given.

Still, Baby Mama is an entertaining slice of biography that offers a thought-provoking (if sometimes myopic) perspective on a kind of motherhood that's not often talked about—and a story very particular to our moment in time. 

IRT Theater (Off-Off Broadway). Written and performed by Mariah MacCarthy. Directed by Sara Lyons. 1hr 10mins. No intermission. Through Jan 29. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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