Department of Theatre and Dance starts season on humorous note

In the midst of their failing marriage, Helen and John are struggling to raise their baby. Unfortunately, “struggling” is a bit generous. They can’t dress the baby properly. They haven’t named it. And they incorrectly decide their baby is a girl, without bothering to physically verify their assumption. Somehow, this horrifying situation manages to be quite funny in the GW theatre and dance department’s production of the Christopher Durang play “Baby with the Bathwater.”

Janine Barris-Gerstl is wonderfully funny as Helen, the well-meaning but utterly inept mom. George Reddick is good as her emotionally fragile husband. Their situation is complicated by the arrival of Nanny, played by Karen Meshkov.

Although at times Meshkov seems to overact, it’s hard not to laugh at her portrayal of the aging seductress who controls her charge by giving him the evil eye. The interaction between the three performers and the great script make their scenes comic despite the rather odd plot. You will find yourself alternating between laughing out loud and wondering at how you can laugh at such a tragic story.

In later scenes, the baby, now named Daisy (Sean Abbott) and dressed in skirts and dresses despite actually being male, is older but not much better off. His teacher’s attempts to intercede are blocked by the power-crazy school psychologist Mrs. Willoughby (Maggie Gallant) who makes another scene.

The final scenes of “Baby with the Bathwater” deal with the adult Daisy’s attempts to reconcile his feelings toward his parents through therapy and dealing with them directly. Abbott, like the rest of the thespians in “Baby with the Bathwater,” is a talented comic, but the best scenes occur when the entire family is on stage.

The scenes that include all three actors are much more entertaining than those of Daisy in therapy, simply because the leads all play off of each other so well. When Daisy goes back to his family, his bizarre personality quirks blend with the peculiar people and their unique behaviors, allowing the play to humorously come full circle.

The set design and lighting are simple but effective. Despite the rather unlikely topics of mild insanity, gender confusion and child neglect as the basis of a comedy, the theatre and dance department’s talented cast and crew pull it off very successfully in this play.

“Baby with the Bathwater” will be performed in the Dorothy Marvin Betts Theatre Oct. 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 2:00 p.m.

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