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Stage

The Play About the Baby

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 9/29/2004

At Fells Point Corner Theatre through Oct. 10

The normally staid Fells Point Corner Theatre opens its 18th season with a saucy little play by Edward Albee, complete with sexual innuendo, full-frontal nudity, and suggestive finger sniffing. What’s shocking, though, is not the exposed genitals, but how a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright could have hacked out such a dreadful script. By comparison, this production is a triumph—even though the actors apparently had trouble remembering their lines.

But first, the “plot”: A lecherous young couple (Boy and Girl) have just had a baby. They receive a visit from a lecherous middle-aged couple (Man and Woman) who torture the young couple by claiming, first, to have come to take the baby away and, later, that there is no baby and never was. The second act is more or less a rehash of the first, meant to whip our minds into loop-de-loops of inscrutability: Which is the real couple? Where is the baby? Is Boy’s penis really always hard? Are they going to run naked across the stage again? Is anything really real, really? And so forth.

As Man, Frank B. Moorman is by far the most natural and engaging of the four actors, but he seems to have a hard time memorizing his lines (the show was reviewed on its fourth night), which is not the sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall exercise Albee likely had in mind. At least when Moorman stumbles he tries to fake his way through it; Debbie Bennett (Woman) practically announces her line flubs, as does Tiffany James (Girl, pictured right). The whole experience is a little like watching George W. Bush give a speech: You’re so distracted by the anticipation of mangled words that it’s hard to pay attention to the substance. Shannon Weber (Boy, pictured left) seems to know his lines, but he also recites them as if reading from an invisible script hanging four inches from his nose, which makes it hard to take him seriously when he talks about his everlastingly stiff cock, which he does a lot.

The set design is the most accomplished aspect of the production. Carol Oles’ simple set is nothing more than two padded chairs covered by a white tarp that extends across the stage. Along the back wall hang six rectangles at various angles, expertly lit by Keith Sherman in a changing configuration of glowing colors. The conjunction of crispness and dreaminess are an effective visual counterpart to Albee’s (albeit simpleminded) meditation on reality vs. perception.

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