The Play About The Baby
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Andre Barron
Where to begin…
The pulitzer prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who also wrote “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf,” passed away last Friday, on opening night of The Road Theatre’s production of what is widely held to be one of his very best plays, “The Play About The Baby.”
There seemed to be a strange electricity in the air, something far more than just opening night vibes. We all new about Albee’s passing, in fact the director of the play, Andre Barron, spoke to us, the audience, before the house opened. While he thanked us for attending and hoped that we enjoyed the show, he also noted Albee’s passing along with his tremendous and unique talent.
I’m fairly certain that for most of us it was the first and hopefully the only time we would attend a play when the writer had died the same day.
But what a play to go out with…
“The Play About The Baby” is a kind of magical absurdist commentary of the nature of loss, death and our innate human ability to deny rather than accept, to fight against truth when that truth brings us pain.
A young couple, madly in love, have a baby. We watch their passion and hopeful, naive love devolve into a frantic, clingy, blinding state as the play progresses. A man arrives onstage, an older man, who addresses the audience directly and invites us into his plot, all the while being half noticed by the young couple who trying to ignore him at first. But as the play progresses they become more and more unable to do so. There also appears on stage, to accompany the man, an older woman, a partner of the man, and together they spin their tales and memories into what feels distinctly like some kind of con, seeming to play mercilessly with the highly confused younger couple. Ultimately they announce, to the horror of us all, that they have come to take the baby.
This is a fascinating play – disturbing, very odd, at times hilarious and then suddenly very, very dark and unnerving. I found myself holding my breath, not sure what to expect next, not sure how to react to this intoxicating mixture of a young couple so focused inward, so blinkered to everything but their tiny world and the older couple, so much more open and sure, controlled and purposeful, in an altogether chilling and alarming way.
This is such an incredible play and one that could fall completely flat, regardless of the brilliance of the writer, without actors who can truly blow your mind…and this fantastic production at The Road Theatre surely has them.
Sam Anderson, who is an artistic director at The Road Theatre Company is outstanding as The Man, twisted and conniving and malevolent, and his co-conspirator, The Woman, is played with brazen and deliciously flirtatious devilry by the superb Taylor Gilbert, a founder of The Road Theatre Company and also an artistic director. They are both powerful actors and command the stage with perfect, artful control in a brilliant contrast to the young couple, so wild, so guileless and careless, with wonderfully daring and memorable performances by Phillip Orazio as The Boy and Allison Blaize as The Girl.
This play is a puzzle, and I overheard many very different conclusions and hypothesis as we all shuffled out of the auditorium at the end of the evening. But I think that perhaps that was the writer’s goal, that we all make our own version of truth out of loss and pain. Whatever your particular experience is of “The Play About The Baby,” I can almost guarantee that it won’t be exactly the same as the next person’s.
Be prepared to use your brain to its full capacity, and to stretch your heart in many directions at once. The Director Andre Barron had quite a task to bring this spiraling fable to the stage, but he and his actors and production crew have created an experience that I will not soon forget and it absolutely should not be missed. It is that rarest of colliding forces, magnificent words, beautifully interpreted and originally and masterfully presented in heart-breaking and mind-blowing brilliance.
I most assuredly and very highly recommend “The Play About The Baby” at The Road Theatre on Magnolia
10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601
September 16 – November 5
Friday & Saturday at 8PM; Sunday Matinees at 2PM
Sarah B. Brown – set design
Lily Bartenstein – lighting & projection design
Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski – sound design
Michele Young – costume design
Chet Grissom & Emma Pauly – producers