Directed by Tara Mallen
At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago
Too many symbols weight-down drama about loss
Playwright Stefanie Zadravec’s The Electric Baby was influenced by her baby’s aliment as well as folksy witticism during her stay in Pittsburgh. The result became the 85 minute one-act now playing at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s home in Rogers Park. This work suffers several fatal flaws. Among there is the runway staging that finds tow sets – each at ends of the space with some action right under our noises on the runway. It was like watching a tennis match as my head moved from left to right than back again. Next, the story was a convoluted intertwined mixture of people bound indirectly by loss. The players mostly over played their characters, especially Amanda Powell as Rosie. Add the over use of Romanian (Gypsy?) folklore against African folklore and we listen to so many age-old aphorisms and truisms that the story seemed to be interrupted by playwright’s need to send us into her world of metaphors Add the moon symbol and, of course, the electric baby and we put the story in second place.
And, the story: we meet a middle aged couple still grieving from the loss of a child and a couple who just got fired as restauranteurs who aggravate their African taxi driver. These irritating characters life’s become intertwined the distraught Helen Casey (Meighan Gerachis) runs in front of Ambimbola’s (Lionel Gentle) cab. Loss and grieving with too much embolism with a dose of magical realism becomes a complex story that ultimately left me unsatisfied. Having Helen continuing to interject herself with all the victims, especially the African shaman Ambimbola, stretched credulity. This drama droned on making its 85 minutes seem much longer. I just didn’t believe these characters could exist outside of the playwright’s mind much less on stage. The story was confused and beyond believability. I felt like I was being manipulated by the play. I left the theatre with a sore neck from all the head turning. This production didn’t work for me. Rivendell Ensemble Theatre usually mounts terrific shows so don’t give up on them.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 20, 2013
For more info checkout The Electric Baby page at theatreinchicago.com
At Rivendell Ensemble Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge, Chicago, IL, call 773-334-7728, www.rivendelltheatre.org, tickets $30, Thursday & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, running time is 85 minutes wit hut intermission, through June 22, 2013