Surviving the Mother-Nanny Divide
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By ANITA GATES
Published: April 24, 2009
Lisa Ramirez has seen some bad stuff.
She moved from California to New York to become an actress. Instead of waiting tables to pay the bills, she became a “temp nanny” and found that the job took over her life. It also inspired “Exit Cuckoo,” her funny, sad and satisfyingly complex one-woman show at the Clurman Theater.
It’s too bad that the title “The Nanny Diaries” has been taken, because that’s what Ms. Ramirez has written. The characters she plays include nannies from three countries, two upscale women who employ nannies, the head of a nanny agency and a displaced grandmother who has to make an appointment (with a nanny) to see her own grandson.
The issues are familiar: the nannies are heartbroken over being separated from their own children; the New York mothers, unhappy in their careers or trophy-wife roles, are heartbroken over missing milestones in their children’s lives.
But Ms. Ramirez brings fresh insight to the picture, smartly revealing the characters’ interwoven fates and fortunes and distinctive personalities. One of her finest creations is Fiona, a young Irishwoman planning to have an abortion, who says, “I can’t believe you can get pregnant from sex that lousy.”
The title refers to one character’s observation that the cuckoo is the only creature in nature to gives up its young to have them raised by others. At Tuesday night’s performance there was spontaneous applause when a character suggested that people bring up their own children. (“Quantity time is what children need, not quality!”)
In a program note Ms. Ramirez expresses hope that her play will “encourage us all to look at motherhood in a new context” and begin a dialogue about “what it means to be a woman in today’s world.”
I couldn’t see exactly who was applauding, but surely this dialogue should also be about what it means to be a man when it comes to child rearing.
The only male characters in “Exit Cuckoo” are a perfect gay couple who ask Lisa to take their baby to see Christo’s “Gates” project in Central Park because it’s a good way for him to learn about the color orange.
“Exit Cuckoo” continues through May 17 at the Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton; (212) 279-4200, ticketcentral .com.