Life is just a matter of perception: no better or worse than what we make of it. “Baby Girl,” a new play by Edith Freni, is just a matter of life, a young single mother’s, but it is far better than what we initially make of it. Don’t get thrown by the convoluted plot—it’s a necessity to throw our perceptions for a loop. What we see isn’t necessarily reality—the protagonist is far from reliable, and trust is a huge issue in this play—but the emotional truth beneath the gritty surface sucks the audience in like quicksand, and the swift pacing, urban soundtrack, forceful acting, and realist direction by Padraic Lillis keeps us there.
Many people talk about choice, but for a girl like Elise, who sleeps in her car with her two-month-old baby, hoping the heater doesn’t drain the battery, what choice is there? Her only option, odious as it seems, is to sell her baby to the father, now a pre-op transsexual, and his well-off lover, a crazy black man with a penchant for Dr. Pepper (Andrew Stewart-Jones, one of those rare scene-stealing forces of nature). It’s all so fantastical (and in fact, may be a metaphorical means of Elise dealing with the pressures of motherhood), and yet so sincere and sad that we buy the whole thing, crook, swine, and drinker. What other choice do we have?
As Elise, Trisha LaFache is a modern tragic hero, brought low by her own manic flaws. Whether by necessity or habit, her lies turn everything to shit, justify them as she might. She is the type of woman who “could burn water.” A normal discussion between her and her ex goes like this: “You cheated on me.” “Once!” she replies. “You brought a married couple home and you fucked them in my bed,” retorts the man. “Yeah,” she admits; “But you can’t count that as twice!” It’s a funny line, a funnier thought, but an altogether serious situation. Complicated, too: this man, Patrick (the noble and conflicted Curran Connor), still wants to love her. His brother, Jason (the slightly monotonous Chris Kipiniak) loves her, too. Even their half-brother, Richie (the delightful John Summerour) the baby’s father, once loved her. In another tragic, realistic twist, none of them can learn simply to love her, as is.
“Baby Girl” goes a bit over-the-top sometimes (the actors, as well as the plot), but it’s all purposefully crafted to bolster this dystopian faerie tale. Open your eyes to the vibrant life radiating out of every inch of the show, and don’t make the same mistake as these characters. Love them simply, as they are.
Center Stage, NY (48 West 21st Street, Floor 4)
Tickets: 15.00 (212-352-3101)
Performances: Wednesday-Saturday @ 8:00
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.