What do you do when the black eyeliner fades, the safety pins tarnish, and everyone—not just Johnny Rotten—is pretty vacant?
That’s the dilemma for Jamie (Deborah Randall), a former punk rock girl now staring down the barrel at 50. Sid Vicious’ dead, so is Joey Ramone and Malcolm McLaren and to make matter’s worse, Jamie—a single parent by proud choice—is about to be a grandma.
Her conservative, careful daughter Joan (an expressively tense Ann Fraistat), named after rocker Joan Jett, naturally, not only married young but is now pregnant. In lieu of a baby shower gift, Jamie decides to narrow down Joan’s birth father from a field of five—she’s sort of a Siouxsie and the Banshees version of mom Donna from the musical Mamma Mia!
If that doesn’t make your fishnet stockings run, nothing will.
Jamie’s stiletto-heeled stab at growing up, while still hanging onto the best parts of youthful rebellion and music-fueled anarchy, are the gist of Alyson Mead’s enjoyable play Punk Rock Mom, a world premiere given a robust staging at Venus Theatre under the direction of Deborah Randall.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was a punk rock girl myself, who saw the Sex Pistols live (twice!), used to Mohawk my hair to skyscraper heights with Ivory soap flakes and Manic Panic dye, and pogo-ed my heart out at CBGBs. So this play was tailor-made for me, and not just because I could not only recognize, but knew all the words to the songs blared throughout the show.
No matter what your musical tastes, most people of a certain age can relate to the idea of knowing when it’s time to hang up your Doc Martens. Jamie winds up embracing some aspects of maturity, such as being the parent, not the child, in her relationship with her daughter, and dialing back the partying with her diva-like friend Aster (Queen V. Suyat) a notch or two.
She may be older, but she’s not dead. Whether it’s the ‘80s or 2012, Jamie is apparently catnip to men—she makes one former flame (Alex Zavistovich) renounce his Buddhist monk vows for a roll on the shag carpeting and turns a preening, aging rocker (Mr. Zavistovich again) into her slave.
Punk Rock Mom contains its share of “You go, girl” fist-bumping, but Miss Mead’s play also brings out what it’s like to be on the other side. You cannot help but cringe right along with Joan as she takes in her mother’s wardrobe, which seems to consist mainly of black bras, teeny slips, and dog chain necklaces, and Jamie’s geezer-like disdain for new technology and new groups like the Arctic Monkeys. Catching Mom en flagrante delicto with lovers and getting sloppy on cocktails, you share Joan’s thought that maybe it’s time to hang it up, granny.
You can find no fault with Jamie’s punky spirit and appetite for life, particularly as played with abandoned relish by Miss Randall. She dives in head-first, whether it is finding Joan’s real father or fighting with her daughter over what really matters.
The play sometimes feels contrived, like something on cable that needs to be neatly resolved within 60 minutes and we could have done without a strained subplot involving Jamie’s often contentious relationship with her brother and her dead mother. However, Punk Rock Mom does capture what the music meant and how it made you feel—like the world was all yours to hold in your leather-studded fist.
Punk Rock Mom
by Alyson Mead
Directed by Deborah Randall
Produced by Venus Theatre
Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard
Running time: Approximately 90 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission