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Score One for 'Mom'

March 6, 2008 By:
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Goals for all: Deborah Sonnenberg (center) with Caralyn Kozlowski (left) and Nancy Ringham

It's no secret why "Secrets of a Soccer Mom" co-producer Deborah Sonnenberg is so successful. She adheres to the rules of the investment game: Use your head.

But as a star of "Soccer Mom," she takes her play from the theatrical playbook: Use your heart.

S-c-o-r-e!

You go, goal: Sonnenberg foots the bill in this football comedy in dual roles that make this field of dreams at the Snapple Theatre on Broadway at 50th a Soccer Mom's cup of tea.

The kick for audiences is the one derived from watching a trusting trio of onstage middle-aged mothers muddy their memories and clean up their acts as they watch their children blithely pass the ball, even as they themselves feel life has passed them by.

In soccer, it's "Look, Ma, no hands!" for the kids, but for their off-field moms, it's the succor of "Someone, please give me a hand!"

The intermission-less 90-minute play is the handiwork of writer Kathleen Clark, with a major assist from director Judith Ivey.

But it is Sonnenberg as a sonic boom of a staid mom with some sultry secrets of her own who puts it through the goal posts, a net prophet of having it all when it all seems to fade away. A mother of four and a former lawyer, the rookie producer got a good signing bonus: a terrific script. And the Narberth native and Penn law-school grad, now residing in Tenafly, N.J., is flying high.

Soccer to them, baby: Let Brandi Chastain be chastised for giving the shirt off her back; Sonnenberg unbuckles the angst of broken dreams and straightlaced expectations in her riotous role as the likeable Lynn.

Returning with her husband and kids from the Netherlands in 2000 -- Sonnenberg's husband is Dutch -- she found the windmill of her mind tilting toward theater back in the States.

"I wanted to return to theater," she said, having done so much in college and elsewhere before law. She ditched the docket for dialogue and just as her fourth child was being born, "I got involved with this show from its inception."

Born free, but busied by the mundane as adults, these "Soccer Moms" opt out of fantasies for full-time roles as moms.

"The script spoke to me, putting into words what I felt strongly as a parent," says the actress. "There's a wonderful love you have for your kids even as there's a loss of self.

"It's so hard, sometimes, to see beyond your supermarket perspective." Yet the shelf life of happiness depends on that perspective. "I am in a happier place now," she adds.

Not that her ride from Tenafly to Mad-hattan isn't a guilt trip with emotional tolls. "Oh, there was a lot of anxiety in leaving the children home," she says of commuting for performances. But being a working mom works for her: "I feel sunnier, fulfilled."

But the follow-spot is set on the children. "I'll always be there when the kids come home," she declares.

Home is where the heart is, and, at her character's heart, there is a sense of the haimish. "Is Lynn Jewish? Well, look at me. There's a lot of me there."

And a lot of "them," too. At this 11 a.m. performance of the show -- "So the moms can be home for when their kids get out of school" -- the play served as a meaningful massage for Moms -- and the stray Dad, too -- eager to see their lives onstage.

Buy the massages didn't end there; they're also offered complimentary in the lobby at each performance (whether at 11 a.m. or 8 p.m.), alongside glasses of free champagne.

After all, the grapes of wrath are many for working moms with young kids. And if the intent of Sonnenberg and her talented team of "Soccer Moms" was to show the importance of heading off harried lives, they can now do a victory dance that would impress Pelé.

They've met their goal. 

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