The sign out front says to expect “nudity and adult themes.” Inside a young couple runs around, chasing each other, naked and giggling as the slapping sound of genitalia against flesh rings through the room. “Oh yeah” I think, “this is a play by Edward Albee.”
Albees’ “The Play About the Baby” is currently playing at D.C.’s Studio Theatre. Few playwrights can combine the elements of wit, comedy and tragedy as well as Albee.
The show drops into the world of two young newlyweds and their baby. The show begins as two elderly strangers surprisingly join the family. From the start, it’s not hard to tell that the reality we see is not the reality we ourselves inhabit. It’s a world where even the most simple event can be stretched into the twisted confusion of sexual double entendre. It’s a world characterized by verbose dialogs about the absurd and all things irreverent. In other words, it’s absolutely wonderful.
So what exactly is the deal with this play? Well, it’s an absurd comedy/existentialist drama that acts as a commentary on parenting, the nature of reality, and the loss of innocence and suffering as it relates to identity.
The young couple (Matt Stinton and Kosha Engler) captures the very essence of the purely na?ve. The parts of the man and woman are acted to build a bridge between them and the biblical couple Adam and Eve. Watching them perform, ones sees the physical attributes of man and woman, in hearing their words, they masterfully come across as boy and girl. Innocence courses through every word spoken, they are happy, horny and on the supposed path to knowing one another. “Why would anything go wrong?” says the man, “We’ve just been married, we have a baby, I’m always hard, we haven’t even gotten to know each other yet?”
But as to be expected, something does go wrong, and in classic Albee fashion, two eerie elderly strangers come to inhabit the house mysteriously (Phillip Goodwin and Nancy Robinette). While not sure why they’re there, the young couple eventually asks; the response, sudden and chilling, “We’ve come to take the baby.”
Truly outstanding is the work of Goodwin and Robinette on stage together. It is in these two performers that Albee’s twisted reality sharpens into focus. Watching them perform the audience finds themselves giggling with the delightful intoxication of insanity.
The production continues to make one laugh amid a story line of impending disaster. Self-reflective in nature, the characters break the fourth wall, addressing the audience and involving the theatergoer directly in the events taking place. The elderly man looks out into the crowd, informing everyone as if he were our own twisted father. “Reality…yes, a tricky thing, what is real, what is not real, a tricky thing… If you have no wounds how can you tell that you’re alive?”
Abstract, daring and engaging, “The Play About the Baby” constantly pushes at something more than what appears on the surface. Ultimately, it’s not about the characters, but about the theatergoer viewing them.
“The Play About the Baby” is running at the Studio Theatre (14th and P streets) March 26 to May 4, half price tickets are available to students one half hour prior to show time.