By Beki Pineda; Photo Credit: Avenue Theater

MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD. Written by Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West; directed by Dave Shirley. Produced by the Avenue Theater (417 17th Ave., Denver) through May 30. Tickets available at 303-321-5925 or www.avenuetheater.com.

When I think back on the experience that is MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD, the adjective that immediately comes to mind is “touching” . . . followed in quick order by “funny.” The show recognizes from the beginning that, once women become mothers, their lives are changed forever. The resulting state of being is stressful, surprising, rewarding, frustrating, touching and funny. All these emotions are reflected in this wonderful evening at the Avenue. One mother says with a smile that she loves her child, but sometimes wishes she had met him under different circumstances.

The cast of three women and one guy explore the facets of parenthood in all its glory. The ironic joys of birthing are re-enacted; the Terrible Two’s examined; the teenage years gotten through all the way up to the Empty Nest. Then we begin to deal with adult children with their entourage of inappropriate suitors, unreasonable in-laws and unworthy spouses. Your reward is grandchildren and, in that final and humbling role reversal, having  your grown children take care of you. As the show illuminates time and again, the joy outweighs the negatives a thousand times over.

In a series of short scenes, the “brave new world” of families is explored. The mother of an adopted Chinese baby explains to a clueless observer why she would adopt when she had a perfectly good biological son. A new mother gets advice not about raising her baby but, more importantly, how to keep her husband happy:  “Squeeze—hold—release.” A gay father confronts a Santa who asks his daughter where her mommy is; in a charming scene, he recounts the process he and his partner went through in creating their “gayby.” A woman falls in love with a father but can’t win the love of his daughters. There is a startling illustration of the jolt of quiet mothers go through when their noisy child leaves the nest.

One of the most poignant scenes brings tears to my eyes just remembering it. A mother tells how she and her soldier son, for luck, got matching tattoos—a small star on their shoulders—before his first deployment. When her friends dismissed or disparaged this effort, she responded, “Are you kidding? I’d get stars all over my back, one for every year of his life, if it kept him safe. Sixty, seventy—whatever!”

The women in this versatile and flexible cast are Cindy Laudadio-Hill and Jane Smiley, with Amie MacKenzie and Barbara Gehring sharing the third role. Jeff Kosloski plays all the men’s parts. They work together and independently to create this montage of experiences written by 14 of the best contemporary playwrights. Let me emphasize that, while the vignettes are moving, they achieve that result with great humor. You will laugh loudly throughout the evening, even through  your tears.

WOW factor: 8.5