Christel Bartelese fills the Staircase's Bright Room with laughter and positive energy. There is a small stage in an intimate theatre on the top floor of the building with great acoustics. On the stage is a table covered with a white cloth. That one setpiece serves as a couch, a gynecologist's examining table, and her mother's birth canal.
In a similar creative way, an oversized mask of a baby's head becomes, in turn, her head when she was a baby, a very large baby bump and her newborn baby. One other prop serves as an umbilical cord, a phone, and a scarf. The way she uses these few simple props is crazy fun and thoughtfully symbolic. It gives a glimpse into her wonderfully playful imagination.
By being candid, honest, vulnerable and by having a great sense of humor about her struggles and musings around the issues of reproductive health and motherhood Christel Bartelese quickly establishes an great rapport with the audience.
She makes it clear the frequently asked, "when are you having kids?" evokes way deeper issues than small talkers intend. She raises awareness in hilarious ways.
Christel Bartelese takes us through a roller coaster ride of hormonal enhanced emotions. She is so familiar with her many fears that she has given them numbers. At first I wondered why she was presenting "fear #33" after she had just told us about "fear #4."
It is a clever way to represent how all these different fears can arise, be replaced with another then resurface again often unpredictably. Along with those fears there are moments of tenderness, joy, disappointment and hope.
Christel Bartolese performs a monologue of one historically scary mother she calls "Lady M." She introduces us to some of the characters who have been there at various stages of her journey through womanhood.
She speaks about her mother with loving detail and deep affection. She portrays the cold-hearted claw-handed gynecologist who advised her for years to grin and bear the pain of "endo." I was especially touched by the way she imitates herself talking to her mother on her umbilical cord phone.
Christel Bartelese's creativity makes watching her a delightful experience. It is amazing the way laughter opens the heart. I walked in thinking the physical and emotional issues around becoming a mother are very personal, I left feeling the fears and hopes are universal.
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