Mother On Fire

Review by Willard Manus

Sandra Tsing Loh's latest one-woman show is aptly titled. Motherhood and the desperate need to find a kindergarten for her daughter drove her, if not up the wall, then on to the stage of the 24th Street Theatre, where she delivered a rapid-fire, high-flying, hilarious 75-minute aria that burned up just about every drop of oxygen in the hall.

Loh gained notoriety a few years ago when she uttered a four-letter word on National Public Radio's KCRW and was censored and reprimanded by the bluenoses in charge of the station. Loh resigned her gig in protest, thereby triggering a free-speech battle whose repercussions are still being felt today. As Loh comments during the course of her show, "For fifteen minutes, yes, I was a bit of a rock 'n roll star."

After her brief period of fame, Loh and her musician husband Mike Miller settled back into their everyday routine: trying to survive as artists in a mad, mad world in which the kindergarten fees at a private school might cost as much as fifteen thousand dollars. The financial shock led her to consider various other options: moving in with her unpleasant Chinese father (and his third wife) in Malibu; enrolling her child in a Catholic school "run by nuns with attitude;" applying to a "magnet" school run by the Board of Education ("Saigon in flames").

Loh's race against time became more and more frantic as she battled just about the entire educational establishment in L.A. in search of a solution, which turned out, ironically, to be just around in the corner in the Van Nuys grammar school she had previously rejected as being strictly for "migrant farmworkers."

"Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was not only free, but neat, clean and smartly run-- and filled with happy children," she confessed. Her daughter was the only blonde in the room, but "neither she nor the other kids noticed it." It was only a kindergarten, of course.

Loh's attack on the "fight or flight to the good school district" mentality, her jibes at real-estate agents, state bureaucrats, "blue-state" liberals, half-cocked parents (especially fathers) and bourgeois values, make for wicked fun throughout, humor that's not just funny but painfully true.

24th St. Theatre, 1117 West 24th St., in North University Park. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit