Monday, August 13, 2012

"The Play About The Baby"

Playwright:  Edward Albee

Germinal Stage Denver, 2450 West 44th Avenue, Denver, CO

Date of Performance:  Sunday, August 12, 2012

Running Time:  1 hour, 50 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Ed Baierlein ("The Man") and Deborah Persoff ("The Woman") in "The Play About The Baby" (Westword)
Here’s what you need to know about Germinal Stage Denver’s “The Play About the Baby”:

·      It’s disturbing.

·      It’s confusing.

·      It will challenge you.

·      It’s brilliant.

Albee’s script is the textbook definition of “theater of the absurd.”  Things are not what they seem; in fact, they may well be quite the opposite.  Words are just words; they are vague, ambiguous, and sometimes meaningless.  The characters find themselves in an improbably, in fact, unbelievable situation.  Logic is lost.  The crisis is severe, but it cannot be resolved on this stage.  The absence of a resolution is frustrating, but Albee was never interested in giving us solutions.

This script would be a disaster in the hands of a lesser playwright.  For Albee, though, “The Play About the Baby” is a playground for words and ideas that ricochet loudly off the walls as the audience tries to fathom what they are seeing.  If your head is spinning ten minutes into the first act, you are having the correct Albee experience.  If the first ten minutes (or any ten minutes) of the play make perfect sense to you, you’ve probably seen this play multiple times.  Comprehension may come with the repetition…but I doubt it.

Albee uses the illogical events on stage to confront the audience with important questions.  Foremost among those important questions is “what is real?”  How do we know if something is real or imagined? 

Albee asks us whether it matters.  Is an imaginary crisis any more or less urgent than an actual crisis?  And if that crisis is imaginary, is there no value or lesson that can be taken from it?

If the script is challenging (and it obviously is), the cast here is more than equal to the task.  Deborah Persoff never has a bad day onstage, and “Baby” is no exception.  Watch her carefully in the first act, as she becomes increasingly drunk before your eyes.  I started to wonder if it was real vodka in the decanter…she was THAT good.
Deborah Persoff/Ed Baierlein

Ed Baierlein brings exactly the proper balance of deadpan delivery and philosophical guidance to his character.  “If you haven’t had the wound of a broken heart, how can you know if you’re alive?” he asks the Boy and the Girl.  Being young and innocent, they haven’t had that experience.  And given the circumstances, the question of whether they are alive is a very pertinent one.  Baierlein makes them ask the question but gives them no hope of answering it.

Cole Cribari and Kelsey Kaisershot
The Boy (Cole Cribari) and the Girl (Kelsey Kaisershot) struggle with a rapidly disintegrating reality.  Their characters run the gamut of emotions.   We see the Boy and the Girl display their lust, passion, fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, guilt, and shame.  The display of a rainbow of emotions is extraordinary, and a joy to watch.
Director Tad Baierlein, to his credit, brought a wise sensitivity to the nudity here.  He stages two completely naked actors so that they are entirely visible to every seat in the house, but the action is so fleeting as to avoid the audience gawking at the sight.  In a theater that puts every seat within 30 feet of the stage, he deftly manages the shock of naked bodies without making either the actors or the audience overly uncomfortable.

As the play ends, we still don’t know what is real.  What happened to the Baby?  Where is the Baby?  Is there a Baby?  Was there ever a Baby?  Does any of it matter? 

Germinal Stage Denver is truly a local gem.  From the recent “A Streetcar Named Desire” to the French classic “The Misanthrope” and now to “The Play About the Baby,” GSD provides the audience with works that are important at a time when most theaters are focused on what’s popular and profitable.  For years, GSD has been the go to stage for theater that matters. 

It’s easy to give audiences what they want.  Germinal Stage Denver gives us what we need. 


This show runs through Sunday, August 26, 2012.  This production includes adult themes and adult language, as well as nudity.  Not recommended for children.

Director:  Tad Baierlein  

Costume Design:  Sallie Diamond

Production Manager:  Lauren Meyer


Man:  Ed Baierlein

Woman:  Deborah Persoff

Girl:  Kelsey Kaisershot

Boy:  Cole Cribari

Photo Credits:  Westword and Germinal Stage Denver.

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