"in my mother's house..." So each of the four women on the stage begins as she remembers her own mother trying to understand how she became the woman -- and the mother -- that she was.
For one, there are memories of love, laughter, but also guilt, in her mother's house. For another, there is the mother whose smile becomes armor to fend off disappointment and frustration.
"Motherhouses" is the fifth theater piece from Pro Femina Theater, a small group of women theater professionals who draw on their own experiences for their productions. They have verve, imagination and stage style but now need a new subject for their examination. As the titles of earlier shows indicate -- "Are We Our Mother's Daughters?" and "Mother, May I?" in two versions -- they have been dissecting the mother-daughter relationships over generations in their improvisational sketches.
Certainly other experiences and forces exist within a woman's life that demand equal time and attention.
Still, there are moments of humor and insight in "Motherhouses." The four actress-playwrights -- Leslie Bravman Jacobson, Susan Patz McInerney, Doris Indyke and Nancy LeRoy -- recognize the not monsters even if they are flawed human beings -- just as their daughters, too, will be imperfect.
The problem is that every family disagreement or daily irritation is necessarily fraught with significance.
The four performers deftly change roles from mother to daughter to father, and have come up with some imaginative touches to mount their sketches. There is the framework of a show called "Great Moments of Motherhood." And with fine precision, the four function as automations during an episode on a busy, strong-willed working mother. The audience is invited to participate in a discussion after the performance.
"Motherhouses" is playing at 8 p.m. through Sunday at the New Playwrights' temporary house at the Ameican Theater in L'Enfant Plaza. There are also matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.