Moments of Joy opens on Vandervort-Cobb in a dressing room, fretting over why on earth she ever agreed to write and perform this show. She worries aloud about whether it’s ready, why she thought it was a good idea, and why anyone would care when. The actress/playwright then prays for a muse and — poof! — Grandma Bernice, dead for years, appears. Bernice is quickly followed by Joy’s mother, Sandra, and Joy’s Aunt Bibby, all there to alternately encourage and hassle her into getting her courage up so she can go out there and perform the best, truest show possible.
The three women are a kind of modern-day, meddling version of the Fates; they hold the keys to Vandervort-Cobb’s past, present, and future. Each are accordingly present in the wings of the stage from start to finish. With these constant reminders of who she is cheering or, in the case of Bernice, drinking on the sidelines, Joy launches into her masterpiece.
Moments of Joy delivers just what it promises: it’s not only very funny — it’s celebratory in the most authentic sense. Vandervort-Cobb opens the show with a rendition of “Phenomenal Woman,” Maya Angelou’s poem set to music, and it truly is the anthem of the evening. We journey with Vandervort-Cobb from her radiant childhood, to L.A. as a teenager in the 1970s, to her first big tour, and finally to marriage, motherhood, separation, and reconciliation. It’s a beautiful, and sometimes ridiculous, exploration of the arc of a life.
Vandervort-Cobb has more than enough energy and character to pull off the one-woman show (her representation of one of the deans of CofC must have been dead on, judging from the irrepressible laughter of the students in the theater). Her grandmother, mother, and Aunt Bibby all are as recognizable as Joy herself. It’s especially interesting to notice similar elements of voice and carriage in both Joy and her mother; whether the resemblance is truly unconscious or not, it’s a moving tribute to the strength of our ancestors’ influence.
Whether you’re in the mood for some stellar character performance, comedy, or just a clear-headed foray into the twists and turns of family history, Moments of Joy is sure to satisfy. And ladies: if you don’t feel phenomenal when you go in, you will, without a doubt, when you leave.