Review: "Help Wanted" Needs No Help Making Feminist Motherhood Funny

Help Wanted - Single Feminist Mother of a Teenage Boy Looks for Support (AAA Cercasi sostegno per madre single e femminista con figlio maschio e adolescente)

Written and performed by Monica Faggiani

April 27, 2024 at Villa Charities in Toronto, Canada

May 3, 2024 at 6 pm at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU, Manhattan, NYC

May 4, 2024 at 2 pm The Brick Aux, Brooklyn, NYC

Monica Faggiani. Photo by Alexandra Grippi
From one angle, Monica Faggiani's stand-up style solo show Help Wanted - Single Feminist Mother of a Teenage Boy Looks for Support is about transformations: those wrought on individuals by birth, motherhood, the movement from childhood into adolescence, and even those of embracing living as what Faggiani terms an imperfectionist. Part of the 2024 In Scena! Italian Theater Festival, which runs from April 29th to May 13th at multiple venues throughout the five boroughs and offers free admission to all events, Help Wanted, performed in Italian with English supertitles, explores one woman's experience of the tensions among the elements in the show's subtitle with humorous élan.

Faggiani has great presence from the moment she takes the stage, lip syncing and dancing to a song from Italian singer and actor Loredana Bertè - pop star and actor, we learn, were two roles to which Faggiani aspired as a child. As a child, she also absorbed, at her mother's side, including in demonstrations, the feminist thought that she continues to espouse. Now, in her roles as a mother, rather than chanting in the streets, that espousal sometimes takes the form of delivering impromptu lectures on consent or sexist language to her teenage son's friends in response to their behavior.
This discussion, though, comes from later in the show. First, Faggiani delves into the ways in which having a child–from pregnancy (she implies a very funny equivalence between her unborn son and adult men in how the baby takes up all available space, among other inconsiderate behaviors) to a young son's maternal adoration–collides with feminist principles. The reminiscences about her son's birth also establish the show's motif of the "beautiful weiner" that comedically embodies the phallocentrism of patriarchal society. She links questionable male sanitary and hygiene habits, for example, to the aggrandized self-image encouraged by normative ideas of gender. An impressive level of uncleanliness is only one of the teenage behaviors that lead Faggiani to compare her son entering adolescence to her child being kidnapped by the Mind Flayer from the Upside Down. A vividly reenacted conversation attempting to glean information from her son about the girl he likes is a particularly hilarious segment, as is her enumeration of the ways that people typically react (poorly) to criticisms of sexist language.

Faggiani employs smidgens of audience interaction (and of English) and a terrific command of rhythm on the way to an ending that is equal parts poetry and rock-and-roll. Over the course of the show, we see that the friction between gender roles and generational gaps is rooted in love; and, in motherhood, as in life more generally, knowing something (for example, that your child will eventually have sex, and probably more than once) is not the same thing as experiencing it. This disjunction, along with our culture of self-performance, drives Faggiani to try to be different types of mom at different stages of her son's life, but her ultimate realization is that it is ok–for both mother and child–to be normal and average. Judging from Help Wanted, though, she does not extend this attitude to her art.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

More from the 2024 In Scena! Italian Theater Festival:

News: In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY 2024 Announces Performance Schedule and Awards


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