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Allyson Currin‘s play Benched is about three D.C. urban moms. But thankfully, it has nothing to do with DC Urban Moms and Dads, the vitriolic local message board that’s the area’s closest thing to a Fight Club for parents. The women in Benched don’t call each other names or insult each other’s strollers. They just kvetch.
Benched isn’t actually receiving its premiere this weekend. But it’s having an Actors’ Equity Members’ Project workshop, which means the performances free. The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts is playing host.
Despite the workshop label, Currin says the quality is high, if a bit “rough-and-tumble.”
“The performances are beautiful,” she says, referring to the play’s three actresses—-Dionne Audain, Liz Mamana, and Leigh Jameson. “The actors are giving so much of themselves.”
Directed by Jessica Lefkow (who has “sculpted the piece beautifully,” Currin says), Benched revolves around the conversations of three mothers as they sit together watching their children at a playground. The women help each other work through some the events in their lives, such as an unexpected pregnancy and the fear that one may soon move away.
Currin says she based the play on her own experiences as a new mother. “When my kids were younger, I had a chance to watch a lot of smart women bitching about their lives,” she says. “They’re very smart, very educated… they went to college with a career in focus and when they end up with a family it comes as a curveball.”
Currin set her work on a playground bench because she believes it offered the most uninhibited environment for her characters. “I wanted women in their natural habitat, without anyone to impress,” she says. “This is ultimately a play about intimacy…Watching the kids builds an incredibly intimate relationship which is based on the mundane.”
Some of the moments, such as when one character discovers she’s pregnant with a second child she didn’t plan for, came directly from Currin’s own experiences with her fellow mothers.
“I’ve gotten that phone call,” Currin says. “You know—-God, crap, I’m pregnant.
“It’s not that they’re not happy,” she goes on. “But it wasn’t supposed to happen then.”
However, Currin is quick to point out other parts of the play—-such as when one mother brings a martini with her to the playground, hidden in a water bottle—-are entirely her own invention.