Backstage Theatre Company
The Play About the Baby
By: Edward Albee
Directed by: Matthew Reeder
At The Chopin Theatre Studio
Rarely produced Albee play is a puzzling journey that forces you to think.
The Play About the Baby is a difficult play to review because it is something that is definitely not for everyone. Those who are familiar with the cannon of Edward Albee will find Baby contains many of the same themes and situations of his other work; however, those new to his work may feel lost and confused. There is a lot to enjoy about the play: The acting from the cast is strong, the monologues are often funny or thought provoking, and by the end of the show you will spend days interpreting the meaning of the characters, actions, and dialogue. In spite of these strengths, at the end of the night I walked away confused and am still puzzling over what I experienced.
The plot revolves around a young married couple (Patrick De Nicola and Kate Cares) who live in their own private “Eden.” Their bliss is barely interrupted by the birth of their first child, and they continue to spend their days proclaiming their love, living in unparalleled bliss, and engaging in playful sexual encounters. However, an older couple (Michael Pacas and Karen Yates) that may have sinister motives invades their perfect world. Every character has a story; where they come from, who they are, and meaningful experiences in their lives. The first act is predominantly exposition and exploration of the themes of reality vs. fantasy, family, and love. The abstract action is engaging and funny, with the Man and Woman bringing the audience into the world they were watching at a distance. The problems with this play lie more in the second act. Whereas the first is engaging and keeps the interest of the audience, the second act becomes a repetitive cycle of dialogue that is not nearly as engaging, funny, or thought provoking. I do not want to give away what the second act entails, but by the time it reached the end I was not invested anymore. Even though I was equally confused by the first act, I was engaged and entertained. Perhaps I am missing the message, or perhaps due to my age I am in league with the young couple and am just not able to understand what is going on.
As I mentioned, the acting is very strong. Patrick De Nicola and Kate Cares are adorable as the young couple. They wonderfully exemplify newlyweds without a care in the world apart from their happiness. The Young Woman also acts as a mother to the Young Man when he experiences moments of pain, which are quickly covered up as they return to their blissful existence. They both find a balance between their childishness, carefree attitude, and pain. Michael Pacas is gleefully sinister as the Man and Karen Yates is hilariously playful as the Woman. They both do a wonderful job of balancing between their humor and their malice. It is hard to fault their performances, or the work of director Matthew Reeder, because most of my problems are with the script. I give Mr. Reeder credit for taking on a show that has not been produced in Chicago since 2003, and even though I was not sure the motivation for all of the actions in the play, it was clear to me that the actors and the director did. In the end though, the talent of the actors and director could not overcome my problems with the second half of the script.
I feel as though this is a show you will enjoy if you are a familiar with Edward Albee and are able to relate to the action of the play. This is a play that will not resonate with everyone, but if you come in with an open mind you may find something in the subtext that I was not able to. Although I did not particularly enjoy the show, I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I left the theatre. It is a play that is guaranteed to spark conversation and make you think in a way you otherwise wouldn’t. To me, that is something a good piece of theatre does. In that regard, this is a play worth seeing. Even as I have been writing this review my opinions about what the play means have changed, and I have no doubt when I wake up tomorrow they will be different once again.
Date of Review: 4/10/10
At The Chopin Theatre in the Studio, 1543 W. Division Ave, Chicago, IL 60642. Tickets $20 and $18 for Seniors. Student and Group rates available. Call 800-838-3006. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30PM, Sundays 3:00 PM. Running time is approximately 1 hour 50 minutes with intermission. Through May 8, 2010.