note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
The Boy … Walter Belenky
The Girl … Zofia Goszczynska
The Man … Jeff Gill
The Woman … Jarice Hanson
There are still a few performances left at the Piano Factory of Edward Albee’s THE PLAY ABOUT THE BABY courtesy of Boston Directors’ Lab and The Mill 6 Theatre Collaborative --- the play is one of Mr. Albee’s more fascinating efforts and the production, the season’s best comedic offering, thus far.
A Boy and a Girl, about college age, have just had a baby. Enter a mysterious older couple who, after some lengthy asides to the audience, announce to the shocked younger couple that they have come to take their baby for no apparent reason other than to test their emotional resilience --- whether the baby has died and Boy and Girl are in denial-mode or they are simply Playing House and need to smell the coffee is left up to the audience. Those expecting another WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? may walk out, disappointed (though Mr. Albee does a spin on Honey’s imaginary pregnancy that George so ruthlessly exposes); those who know enough of Mr. Albee’s canon will be fascinated and mind-tickled at all of the ins and outs of his cerebral vaudeville for Mr. Albee has returned to the days when he was one of the first American playwrights to dabble in Theatre of the Absurd. THE PLAY ABOUT THE BABY is almost four decades removed from THE SANDBOX and THE AMERICAN DREAM but shares the same weird playfulness (the Man and Woman are very much aware that they are characters in a play); if Mr. Albee has mellowed with this comedy, it is the mellowness of sunshine on a sparkling winter’s day, chilly and invigorating.
Jeremy Johnson deftly directs in the very space where he was a memorable Nurse for SHAKESPEARE’S R&J, last spring, and he keep things dry and spinning --- the air of “What Next?” hovers over the evening --- and his well-orchestrated quartet clearly relishes Mr. Albee’s lean, quirky score with Jeff Gill dominating as one of the oddly charming kidnappers. Mr. Gill is a busy actor, nowadays --- this is my third encounter with him since July, not including the current JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE where he appears on the nights when he isn’t after Baby. Here, his Man dazzles, his hands fluttering like two birds in a storm; his darting smile, part grin, part barring of teeth; his eyes, two cold yet compassionate beacons (is their burning light celestial or demonic?); his patter, that of a magician ready to presto-chango, with ambiguous results. Mr. Gill recently played another Smilin’ Charley in THE PRICE and his steely juxtaposition of text and subtext may be his strong card --- but does his art have a heartbeat? Jarice Hanson as Mr. Gill’s flamboyant partner-in-crime is Earth to his Air, offering her breasts like grapefruits yet blessedly free of Camp; and Walter Belenky and Zofia Goszczynska make an amusing pair of childlike parents --- he, grinning like the next Mickey Dolenz (children, ask your parents); she, alternating between the perks and the pouts.
Once again, the Piano Factory has been transformed: TRANSLATIONS’ barn, complete with straw, has given way to Caleb Wertenbaker’s smart, red-floored apartment that could double as a mid-Manhattan art gallery. Designers must love the Piano Factory’s challenge as its performing space adapts to each vision yet always remains itself --- exposed brick with a square hollow in its back wall. Those who can adapt to the Factory’s aesthetics tend to come up with good theatre as a rule as have the Boston Directors’ Lab and The Mill 6 Theatre Collaborative --- but for only a few performances, more.
HELP SAVE BOSTON’S HISTORIC GAIETY THEATRE!