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TODAY

Saturday, June 15

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During my teenage years, my mother was a live-in nanny for a family in Lincoln Park. She would stay with them from Sunday evening until Friday afternoon raising two little boys, and then she would come home on the weekends. This went on while I was 14 until 18. Being the youngest of five children and the only one who still lived at home, I basically spent those four years learning to be self-sufficient and independent.

While most teenagers might view a solo 5-day-a-week living arrangement to be too cool for words, there were times when I did want my mother around and did want her rules and discipline. During that time, I often wondered how my mother felt about the choices she made. She often told me she was doing this for "us," for me. Her paycheck did pay for my growing adolescent needs and I was never left wanting for anything — except her. And I thought about her boss, did she ever think about me? Or more importantly, how did she feel about having someone else raise her children while she worked?

These questions and more are addressed in Lisa Loomer's tragicomedy Living Out, a Teatro Vista and American Theater Company co-production. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, Living Out is the story of two women with children and the choices they make in raising their children.

Nancy Robin (Cheryl Graeff) is a high-power, driven entertainment lawyer who is eager to return to work and interviewing nannies to care for her newborn daughter. Ana Hernandez (wonderfully played by Sandra Marquez) is an undocumented worker from El Salvador with two children of her own, one of which is still in El Salvador and she has not seen in eight years. Experience from previous interviews tells Ana if she lets Nancy know she has a young son at home, she won't get the job — so she lies and says both of her children are in El Salvador. Ana is hired as a live out nanny, and with this, Living Out is set into motion.

Loomers' dialogue between Nancy and Ana is convincing and real — it could easily take place in any nanny/employer relationship. Even though Nancy wants to go back to work, she feels guilty for doing so. Ana, noticing this, says, "I know it's hard for you to leave her," and it suddenly occurs to Nancy her separation from her daughter is minuscule compared to Ana's separation from her children. "Oh god, you have to leave your children in another country — I'm just going across town," Nancy exclaims.

By becoming nanny to the Nancy's daughter, Ana soon finds she is juggling divided loyalties, as responsibility to her employers butt up against her own family's. She feels guilty that she stays late at her job and misses her son's soccer practices (eventually, Ana must find childcare for her son) yet conversely, she feels guilty for lying to Nancy about a "sick mother" when her son has a day off from school.

As the play progresses, both mothers find themselves left out of key moments in their children's lives; Nancy's daughter begins crawling while Nancy is out of town on a business trip and Ana can't make her son's first soccer game. While both women miss time with their child, both over work situations, one of them suffers a blow that makes the audience question whether she was right to choose work over her child — even if the end result of work is a better life for that child.

The theme of loyalties and responsibilities to family, as well as sacrifices made by mothers, are constantly examined throughout the play. There is the loyalty Nancy feels for her job and the lack of loyalty she briefly feels for her husband; the loyalty Ana feels to her husband, her sons, to Nancy's daughter and to Nancy herself — as an employer, but moreso as a woman and a fellow mother.

Lisa Loomer, who also wrote The Waiting Room, touchingly discusses the many facades of being a woman and the decisions every mother makes. Those decisions are truly only understood by each woman, and most of the time are not easy to come to. Living Out presents the idea that in motherhood not everything is black and white. Rich comedic moments, along with great portrayals warmly acted by the cast and intelligent directing by Cecilie Keenan, make Living Out, a memorable play.

Now playing through May 22
American Theater Company
1909 W. Byron
773/929-1031
Tickets are $25-30

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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