Review by Alan Bresloff
June 11, 2010
Actors Theatre Company has been around for 14 years and yet, many of us, in Chicago, have not had the pleasure of watching this non-Equity troupe “do their thing”. Well, now you can see the talent that they bring to us in their production of “Baby” a musical with a book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby,Jr. “Baby” is the story of three couples on a college campus- One couple, Alan and Arlene are married with three grown daughters, a second married couple, Pam and Nick are on the staff ( as is Alan) of the college and are anxious to have a child and the third couple, Lizzie and Danny are students who are not planning that far ahead. This story takes on a rollercoaster ride with each of these couples as they explore what a baby will mean to their lives and the changes (not just the diapers) that will come as well.
There are many wonderful songs in this elongated version- 2 ½ hours; many of which have been recorded or performed out of context-“I Want It All” (done with great energy by the ladies), “Fatherhood Blues” and adorable number that the men do with the male ensemble to some clever choreography by Robin Lehtman, the enchanting “Patterns” sung beautifully by the lovely Katherine L. Condit, and one of my favorites “And What if We Had Loved Like That” handled by Ms Condit and Rick Rapp ( Alan). This one is a wonderful view of a love relationship between a man and woman and gives one cause to think and examine their own life.
The six main characters are delights to watch and bring a great deal of energy to their roles. Patrick Tierney is a solid Danny, Jason Jackson deftly handles the role of Nick, Christine Pfenninger brings a certain special realism to Pam and Hannah Sielatycki’s Lizzie is pure dynamite. In fact this production which has some added scenes and a twelve member ensemble is clearly a solid evening of entertainment for young or old and perhaps may make those who see it take a step back and look at their own lives. Try to understand that the story is not about having a baby, but rather what having that baby does to those doing so. In one case, not having a baby, in another case, a baby bringing a couple of student dreamers into reality and in the last story, a couple who think this baby will save a tired marriage does to and for them.
Directed by Marlo Barden on the North stage of The Theatre Building on Belmont Ave (1225 West), one can see the love and devotion that the script brought to her .In fact, in one of her notes he says that she treated this new version as a baby growing in her mind as this was the first play that she had ever directed and this new version had even more meaning than the first. The only problem that I found in her direction is not knowing how to full use the three sided stage. There were many times that the actors played with their backs to the audience which works well in an arena or theater-in-the-round, but not so well at this venue. This being said, overall, with the exception of a few sound problems (the orchestra is marvelous, but needs to tone down just a bit so we can hear the lyrics, which in many cases are important to the storyline. Jack Cameron and his nine musicians are fantastic. “Baby” will only run until June 27th with performances as follows:
Thursday. Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are a mere $25, a real bargain for theater of this quality and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-327-5252. You can also call Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787
Here is street parking, some metered, some not and valet parking is available. There are also some dinner packages available through the box office.