In a theater world filled with perhaps too many stories about dysfunctional families, solo performer Lisa Rothman takes on the topic of what it takes to be a parent in “Dragon in the Drop-Off Lane.”
The show, onstage at the Marsh in Berkeley, follows up the writer-actress’ 2016 offering “Date Night at Pet Emergency,” an engaging, thoughtful account of the physical and emotional challenges of daily life with her husband Kevin and young sons Ezra and Murray.
In “Dragon,” she adds fantastic characters and elements (though stretching at times) and a snazzy scene, slide and sound design by a team of five collaborators.
The setting is a winter solstice carnival at a private elementary school in Marin, in some ways a strange place for Lisa, who grew up in wealthy Marin, but now prefers to live with her family in the more culturally and socio-economically diverse Oakland.
She’s amused and slightly repelled by the scent of fresh pine, the hand-sewn (by 5-year-olds) $30 fabric bags containing acorns, the method of payment at the fair, and all of the moms in their uniform of Lululemon yoga pants. (A pesky question looms: Why is Lisa even at the fair?)
Thinking she and her kindergarten-age son Ezra are going to enjoy the festivities including gingerbread making (her other son Murray and husband Kevin also are on the premises), she’s surprised to run into her dad, Len, who makes the scene for a debate about the best way to raise children.
He’s firmly in the “caution at all costs” camp, while Lisa, in contrast her own upbringing — she admittedly was troubled — adheres to the looser “wander in the woods.”
Lisa has backup from her fairy godmother (Rothman, playing all of the characters, gives the FG a New York psychotherapist demeanor), who pops up via a portal through a broom closet. (Lili Zakki operates the light and sound board).
That’s not the only magic: Dad Len turns into a chicken who lodges between Lisa’s breasts; the gingerbread cookies come alive (they have high, whiny voices); the school’s righteous parent volunteers become trolls (the fairy tale kind); psychoanalyst giant Carl Jung appears to mediate the conversation; and the show’s titular, metaphorical giant dragon — the root of all chaos — shows up to scare everybody.
The show gets chaotic. Rothman, under direction by David Ford, perhaps isn’t the most natural actress, but she brings heart, soul and commitment to her personal material.
Interestingly, the realistic (rather than fantastic) elements are the most powerful parts of the show — such as a candy picnic Lisa prepares to distract Ezra after an encounter with possible violence.
Still, the main question Rothman raises – why can’t all children grow up in a place that’s physically and emotionally safe? – is relevant. Talkback sessions with community leaders are scheduled after each show.
Dragon in the Drop-Off Lane
Where: Marsh, 2120 Allston Way , Berkeley
When: 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes Feb. 23
Tickets: $20 to $100
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org