O Mother, where art thou?
Lauren Weedman’s Homecoming takes a lighthearted look at her adventures in adoption
Lauren Weedman has been performing Homecoming on and off for five years now, but even she isn’t entirely sure how to describe it. It’s steeped in humor, but it’s not exactly a yukfest; it’s a solo performance, but she’s wary of the pretentiousness that the term one-woman show implies.
“I always say it’s an autobiographical piece about being adopted and wishing I was black and my grandmother dying,” Weedman says. “It’s a bad title in many ways. Somebody said to me, ‘I can’t wait to see that, because at my homecoming….’ Or else everyone thinks it’s a Pinter play.”
Much like Weedman herself, Homecoming has one foot in comedy and one in theater. The 32-year-old Hoosier spent five years performing with experimental theater troupes in Amsterdam before moving to Seattle, where she made a name for herself in the ’90s on the comedy TV series Almost Live. After writing and acting in several successful stage productions in Washington, she decided to try her luck in NYC, and within a year, she landed a spot as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “It’s amazing what getting on TV does,” she says. “You are more loved when you’ve been on television. My parents love me better.”
Weedman’s parents figure heavily in Homecoming, especially her mom and her other mom. The play focuses on a teenager named Lauren Weedman, an adoptee who lives in Indiana (“I’m just not very clever,” the actor-writer concedes). Weedman plays herself and a slew of other characters as she relates the search for her biological mother, but she’d prefer that you not think of it as a young woman’s quest for her identity. “I never intended to have an adoption support-group meeting after every show, but that’s definitely happened,” she says, a little disappointed. Many audience members expect an angst-filled account of alienation and resentment, but as we see, young Lauren has always known she was adopted. Although she wonders about her roots (going so far as to join the black student union and attend Hebrew school- at the same time), she’s generally happy with the family she has.
Weedman possesses a refreshingly natural facility for characterization, free from the distraction of props or costumes. She renders everyone from her grandmother to her boyfriend with intricate detail, but she never resorts to gimmicks or grandstanding. And when she portrays Sharon, her adoptive mother, you can tell that a lifetime of character study has gone into the performance. “It’s all true,” Weedman says of her mother’s eccentric behavior. Sharon devises elaborate schemes in her search for the “BM” (birth mother)- hiring a private eye, phoning classmates culled from the woman’s high-school yearbook- all the while holding an age-old grudge against her own mom. (Whenever Lauren questions the family’s neglect of Grandma, the excuse is always the same, as nonchalant as it is cryptic: She once tied Sharon to a tree.)
After five years, Weedman’s parents finally saw Homecoming- although it took a little prodding. “It’s amazing what a New York Times review does,” she says. “My dad was so proud. He’d never seen anything I’d done.” Mom, unfortunately, may have missed the point of the show. “She’s like, ‘I’m Sharon! That’s me! Sit next to me, Lauren, and I’ll give you some material!'” Weedman says. “I would have changed their names if I’d thought the show would go on and on.”