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Mother on Fire

Scripter-satirist Sandra Tsing Loh has wittily chronicled her existence as a denizen of the San Fernando Valley on her weekly NPR show "The Loh Life," in her book "A Year in Van Nuys" and in newspaper op-ed pages. Her latest legit outing impressively distills her often-jaundiced views on the tribulations of motherhood, as reflected by her manic efforts to get her daughter into an acceptable kindergarten.

Scripter-satirist Sandra Tsing Loh has wittily chronicled her existence as a denizen of the San Fernando Valley on her weekly NPR show “The Loh Life,” in her book “A Year in Van Nuys” and in newspaper op-ed pages. Her latest legit outing impressively distills her often-jaundiced views on the tribulations of motherhood, as reflected by her manic efforts to get her daughter into an acceptable kindergarten. Loh’s perf would be even more compelling if a faulty, overly amplified sound system was not blasting her discourse to the far reaches of the 24th Street Theater’s spacious interior.

Helmed by David Schweizer and Bart DeLorenzo to proceed at a constant high-energy level, Loh establishes her agenda immediately, as a prerecorded voice announces a one-year countdown to the start of kindergarten for her eldest daughter.

Roaming vigorously about Jerry Buszek’s open set, strewn with the paraphernalia of childhood, Loh lashes out at the conditions throughout history that have cast mothers into a supporting role. She points out that even in biblical days, when the prophets were off conferring with the Almighty, “The mothers were always at the well.”

Loh punctuates every point she makes with supportive gesticulation that often gives her performance a kind of kabuki-esque flair. Along the way, she casts satiric barbs at a wide range of personal dissatisfactions, including public schools, the complicated magnet school rating system, the meteoric prices of homes in the prime school districts, the courting of a grandparent who lives in one of these districts, the politics of private education and the mystery of home schooling.

Loh is at her best when contrasting her former hip-to-the max single lifestyle with her current status as a Van Nuys-dwelling drone whose only claim to power is the possession of car keys. Loh projects the aesthetic incongruity of a Dorothy Parker who has suddenly discovered that her main duty in life is the chauffeuring of toddlers.

A particular highlight is Loh’s discovery of the potential cachet inherent in her becoming a perceived celebrity — resulting from the national media attention she received after being kicked off the Santa Monica-based NPR affiliate for using “dirty” language — might give her daughter entry into an exclusive private school with an extensive waiting list. After breathlessly extolling the holistically enriched environment of the wonder school, Loh hilariously details the monumental costs involved in private education depending upon what extras she might want for her neophyte scholar.

If Loh trims a few thin layers of redundancy from her narrative and comes to terms with the decibel level of her miked voice, “Mother on Fire” could have legs for the same successful Gotham runs as two previous Loh shows, “Sugar Plum Fairy” and “I Worry.”

Mother on Fire

24th Street Theater; 99 seats; $25 top

Production: A 24th Street Theater, Modern Artists Company and Frier McCollister presentation of a play in one act, written and performed by Sandra Tsing Loh. Directed by David Schweizer and Bart DeLorenzo.

Crew: Sets, Jerry Buszek; lights, Michael Gend; sound, John Zalewski; video, Michael Masucci. Opened Sept. 30, 2005. Reviewed Oct. 2. Runs through Nov. 6. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN.

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