“Foster Mom” keeps you guessing throughout

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Ariel Woodiwiss as Leslie and Kurt Uy as Josh in the Premiere Stages production of
Ariel Woodiwiss as Leslie and Kurt Uy as Josh in the Premiere Stages production of "Foster Mom.: Photo by Mike Peters

Premiere Stages, Kean University’s professional theater company, is proving to be a home of strong contemporary drama. Foster Mom, chosen from more than 400 submissions as the winner of this year’s Play Festival, is an outstanding example of the company’s work.

Stori Ayers as Sophie and Ariel Woodiwiss as Leslie in the Premiere Stages production of "Foster Mom"
Stori Ayers as Sophie and Ariel Woodiwiss as Leslie in the Premiere Stages production of “Foster Mom”

Foster Mom follows the story of Leslie, a woman in her late 30s who decides to undertake training to become a foster mother in New Jersey’s child protection system. Leslie’s path is not an easy one; her case worker, Sophie, guides her to examine her motivations and her resolve, explaining simply but honestly the difficulties as well as the joys that are part of fostering a child. Sarah, Leslie’s mother, is frankly skeptical about her daughter’s decision, going so far as to set up a meeting with Josh, an Asian-American computer installer who could be a potential romance. Things finally come to a head when Leslie gets the call asking if she will take in a foster child.

Playwright Chris Cragin-Day based the play on her and her husband’s own experiences becoming foster parents, and she skillfully weaves her own experiences into the narrative of the play. Ms. Cragin-Day’s characters are brought to life by the fine cast under the direction of Kel Haney. Ariel Woodiwiss embodies Leslie in all her complexities, and the actress’s talent leaves the audience wondering up until the final scene if Leslie will succeed in her endeavors. As the people with the most influence on Leslie, Stori Ayers projects quiet authority as Sophie; Kate Kearney-Patch adds a touch of meddling-mother humor as Sarah; and Kurt Uy’s Josh is a strong romantic foil with his own strengths.

Kurt Uy as Josh and Kate Kearney-Patch as Sarah in the production of "Foster Mom." Photos by Mike Peters
Kurt Uy as Josh and Kate Kearney-Patch as Sarah in the production of “Foster Mom.” Photos by Mike Peters

For an evening in the theater you will not soon forget, I definitely recommend being immersed in the world of Leslie, the would-be Foster Mom.

Foster Mom is presented by Premiere Stages at the Zella Fry Theatre on the campus of Kean University in Union through Sept. 24, 2017. For tickets and information, visit premierestagesatkean.com.