Roger Williams University's summer show is Edward Albee's "The Play About the Baby" recommended for mature audiences because of adult language and situations. The show was first performed in 1998 in England, off-Broadway in 2001 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize the same year. The show is about a young couple who are madly in love with each other. Then they have a child, the perfect family, that is, until they are visited by an older couple. Through a series of mind games and manipulations, they call into question both couples' sense of reality and fiction, joy and sorrow in this devastating black comedy which invites parallels with Albee's earlier show "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Funny, mysterious and alarming the 4 characters Man, Woman, Boy and Girl inhabit a timeless space where they engage in games of love, loss, pain and memory. Director Jeffrey Martin casts 4 topnotch performers in these roles and they keep you spellbound with their talent from start to finish.
Jeff keeps the audience guessing to what is going on till the final curtain. Albee shapes a dark vision of the universe, what life experience does to us and what we do to each other, into a form that can be delightful even while it can be harrowing. Jeffrey Martin says this show has been called a 'a comic vaudeville', a phrase that captures both the serious intent and the playful theatrical entertainment it delivers.The set is designed in an oval in the shape of an egg, almost like an abstract artist's canvas. Kelly Cabral is the set designer.The older couple appear at first like stand up comics and seem likeable enough but since this is a black comedy they are the bearers of intolerable pain. Richard Wilbur who I directed in "Rumors" in 1993 and Melanie Snow who I directed in "Weekend Comedy" in 2006 play the Man and the Woman. (Richard is a terrific dramatic actor with his best role to date being Morrie in "Tuesdays with Morrie" in 2006) They handle the dramatic and comic moments wonderfully and both have long monologues, giving them many layers to flesh their characters out. They speak directly to the audience as if letting them in on what is happening. The Man proclaims "Reality is a sticky business". The Woman wants to learn about the creative process at first and glimpses the boy and girl running back and forth almost naked like Adam and Eve in Eden. Richard and Melanie sing "Where's the Baby" to the tune of "Yes, Sir That's My Baby". The Boy and the Girl are played by Justin Pimental, a recent PC graduate who I last reviewed in "Waiting For Lefty" and Vivienne Carrette, a RWU student. They infuse these youngsters with great passion and zeal. The emotional underpinnings are left to the young couple who are madly in love with each other. They move from joyful innocence to become full of fear at the older couple's proclamations. Justin's funniest line is I'll be hard and she fell in love with me".Albee's show consists of game playing with cruelty, reality pitted against illusion and humor tempered with a serious bent to it. To reveal what happens will spoil the show for the audience, so for an excellently acted piece of theatre, be sure to catch "The Play About the Baby".