Monday, July 30, 2012

The Play About the Baby
Germinal Stage Denver

     When I was a young movie theater manager I had a boss who had a bold quote in a brass frame above his mahogany desk. It said: “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”
     “The Play About the Baby” is a real head scratcher. It's rich, dense and utterly fascinating. Edward Albee is our greatest living playwright and you owe it to yourself to see this play. Among other things it  deals with the lies of youth and shattered illusions. Albee asks us “if you have no wound how do you know you exist?”  His play speaks of the horror of “the knowledge of who we cannot be.” and of “time, the great controller.”
     As in some other Albee plays there are two couples.  It could be surmised that the man and woman and boy and girl of this play reflect a bit of George and Martha and Nick and Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” You decide.
     Deborah Persoff is woman. Ed Baierlein is man. Cole Cribari is Boy. Kelsey Kaiserhot is Girl.
     Who was it that said, ”Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans?” At 20 one thinks himself immortal and invincible. His elders are seen as sorry failures physically, emotionally and mentally. (He has not yet learned about ‘spiritually.’) Wandering on the periphery of his/her seeming paradise of youthful beauty and exuberant sexuality, these quasi comical/quasi tragic figures - the old ones - have lessons to teach. These are not always given with a generous spirit and an open heart. As in Edward Albee’s play they lay out the landscape in insidiously esoteric, and mostly less than charming fashion. As they taunt and tease with their delicious (to them) sardonic wit, those youthful students of Life are slowly inexorably drawn into the abyss. Sounds charming, huh? It puts one in mind of such Greek myths as Sisyphus and Tantalus. Eternally trucking on in the face of never ending failure at the seeming birth of success and longing for that luscious dream which is just out of reach. As the boy tells the girl: “They are here to hurt and to injure us beyond salvation.”
                                            Left to Right: Deborah Persoff and Ed Baierlein

     Man and woman erase every thought that our younger selves may ever have been innocent or immortal. They have bad news for the two young lovers and for us. There is no such thing as the baby. Their inquisition regarding the whereabouts of the baby eventually wears these two lovers down until both admit that even they can’t remember the Edenic paradise they believe to have been the baby. Slowly man and woman erode any sense of joy or hope in the young couple, replacing it with the despair of emptiness, declining health, decrepitude and death.  They (man and woman) stand like two foreboding angels forever blocking the gates to paradise. They bully, lord it over, tease and tantalize these two naïve children as if they were the very serpent(s) that caused their expulsion from the garden.
     If not serpents one might choose to see man and woman as a pair of ghosts of Christmas Future from whom the youngsters receive the news that not only is there no Santa Claus, but no hope for a Happy New Year either.

     As woman Persoff toys with us as audience in the brilliant delivery of her long monologue. As she strides out to the short wall that separates stage and audience she leans against it virtually causing the fourth wall to disappear. With a deft slicing of her character’s cruel wit she eviscerates any sense in us of ever having been the innocent, enchanted baby born in the image of … well, you get my drift. She makes us believe that we had certain illusive vagaries in childhood that were mere fantasies of the nursery.

                                        Left to Right: Cole Cribari and Kelsey Kaisershot
     Director Tad Baierlein has chosen to use hugely contrasting stage movement to create tension and underscore conflict in this production. Persoff owns the stage as she strides, swivels and staggers drunkenly while laughing with malevolent scorn at these two sadly misguided greenhorns.
      Ed steps out and stands like a grim statue (think the Commendatore at the end of "Don Giovanni”) to state: ”We’ve come to take the baby.” Alternatively he may stroke the chair in which one of the young lovers sat, and sniffing his fingers with a wrinkled nose say: “Young smell.”
     Where Persoff illustrates her character by moving about the stage with a speedy silver energy, Baierlein moves but little. Director Tad Baierlein and actors Ed Baierlein and Deborah Persoff know all too well that action, whether quick or slow, is born out of stillness. The result is Power!
     The stage movement for boy and girl is intentionally,pronouncedly and correctly humiliating. From their cuddly endearments as they discuss armpit licking and adult breast feeding to the cutesy nude chase back and forth behind their less than impressed clothed elders, it’s clear who has the controlling upper hand.
     During much of Act One Persoff and Baierlein sit facing the young couple onstage in such a way as to mirror those sitting in the audience behind them. In this way Director Tad allows us as audience to identify with the omnisciently cruel man and woman.
     It’s a game of reality therapy chess in which man and woman unspool a seemingly unending series of checkmates upon these poor unfortunate pawns. Like the two couples in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “A Delicate Balance” these couples show us that what we believe with all our hearts to be reality is often a cherished lie.
     “Red” was the pinnacle of the last theatre season. Although it’s awfully early to make predictions, Germinal Stage Denver’s “The Play About the Baby” could well be the pinnacle of the new one.
Not to be missed.

                                        RUNS THROUGH AUGUST 26th

   Friday, 8:00, $21.75
Saturday, 8:00, $23.75
Sunday, 7:00, $19.75


JULY 20th, 21st, & 22nd
(Including preview matinee on Saturday, July 21st, 2:00)


No comments:

Post a Comment