‘Foster Mom’ touches on emotional trade-offs in commitments and love

By Liz Keill

UNION,  NJ – Prestige Stages at Kean University debuted the 2017 play festival winner, “ Foster Mom” by Chris Cragin-Day.  Artistic Director John Wooten announced that 400 plays had been submitted to the contest.

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The playwright said she based the theme on her own experience as a foster parent. And there is a real sense of the difficult trade-offs required when you commit to a child from, most likely, a troubled home and who may have emotional or physical problems of his or her own.

In this scenario, Leslie, played with strong conviction and feeling by Ariel Woodwise, is single, a poet (who uses her writing skills to earn a living) has seen this as one path to making a difference in another life.

Her mother, Sarah, sees only problems ahead. Kate Kearney Patch is clearly aware of the huge responsibility involved, as well as the pain of both giving love without necessarily being part of this person’s life in later years.

Through a somewhat convoluted plot, Leslie meets Josh, who has his own computer business. Their relationship grows, yet she’s hesitant on telling him her plans to foster a child. When he finally learns the truth, he blames her for keeping this information from him for so long. Kurt Uy is the warm, charming boyfriend, trying his best to understand Leslie when he senses she is holding something back. Yet their exchanges are full of life and, especially for him, self revelation.

There are lots of shades of meaning in this play, as Sarah reminds her daughter that she continually pushes people away. And even when the foster child is practically on the doorstep, Leslie forces Josh to climb out the kitchen window. There’s something that doesn’t quite fit about that choice. It isn’t clear why she doesn’t want him to meet this child, since he apparently has overcome his resistance.

Stori Ayers is Sophie, the social worker who interviews Leslie and warns her about the steps involved in fostering a child and the need to understand her own motivations. Ayers has an inviting, comfortable presence on stage that helps you believe she has ‘walked the walk.’

Kel Haney has directed this sure, fast-paced 90 minute play. Set design by Jessica Parks is fluid and open, representing various locations with an open kitchen, living area, desk and chair. 

The world of displaced children, who often have no place to go, is well worth exploring and “Foster Mom” sheds light on the tremendous need for a child to find a loving home. The play continues through Sept. 24 at Premiere Stages. For tickets, call 908-737-7469 or visit premierestagesatkean.com.