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‘Date Night’ a funny, thoughtful look at marriage and parenting

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An animated Lisa Rothman discusses her marriage, kids and dogs in “Date Night at Pet Emergency.” (Courtesy David Allen)

With a title like “Date Night at Pet Emergency,” Lisa Rothman’s one-woman show at the Marsh in Berkeley sounds like a wild affair filled with goofy gags and nonstop laughs.

Yet although it’s often quite funny, it’s also a profound, provocative and probing look at modern marriage and contemporary child-rearing. It’s not so much a spoof, but rather a poignant expose, told with humor, candor and fun physicality.

Rothman’s personal tale, developed with Bay Area solo-show expert David Ford, has universal themes. She begins by pointing out how she and her husband Kevin plan to be hands-on, demonstrative, loving parents quite different from her own distant, busy mother and father.
And they make sure to have regular “date nights” to keep their relationship healthy.

Though cautious Kevin isn’t particularly thrilled about it, Lisa decides to adopt a pair of rescue dogs, a move she hopes will bring warmth and compassion to her home and help prepare her for motherhood.

It’s not easy, either. She calls the process a cross between Internet dating and buying a house, and amusingly says the financial crisis of the mid-2000s wouldn’t have happened if mortgage buyers were screened as thoroughly as folks who want to bring a dog into their homes.

After Lisa promises the woman who relinquishes the dogs that she will ensure they always are fed and cared for, she brings home siblings Percy and Sophie. (Rothman adorably imitates the dogs.)

There are some unfortunate poop incidences, but the pooches mostly get along well with the family – Kevin and Lisa’s very young sons Ezra and Murray — at first, but not for long.

Tensions mount, particularly around Ezra’s lack of speech development (he regularly sees therapists to deal with the condition) and when Lisa’s father suddenly is hospitalized.

Lisa wants more support from Kevin, they argue, and Lisa seriously considers if she can continue to make their marriage work. At this point, the show isn’t a barrel of laughs.

Yet lighthearted moments abound when the family unites to capture runaway ants (from a mail-order ant farm) and as things come to a climax when the dogs overdose on antibiotics and Lisa and Kevin’s date night ends at pet emergency.

In the end, Rothman leaves her viewers not only amused, but thinking deeply about what it really takes to be successfully married, with children and dogs.

Date Night at Pet Emergency
Where: Marsh, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley
When: 5 p.m. Saturdays, through Jan. 23
Tickets: $20 to $35
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org

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