The other play about the baby

The Baby Dance

By Jane Anderson
Directed by William Gilmore
collaborations/a theatrical corporation
Bank Street Theater
155 Bank Street (769-7909)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 3)
Review by Adam Cooper

The Baby Dance by Jane Anderson is not a play about a baby but rather about the adults who inherit it. Set in rural Louisiana, it concerns Wanda (Stephanie Faith Scott) and Al (Jason Furlani), a poor couple with four children æ and a fifth they cannot afford on the way. Rachel (Camille McCord) and Richard (Ken Perlstein) are a well-to-do infertile couple from LA who advertise their desire to acquire a baby. Driven by their needs, these two couples engage in a business agreement to exchange the baby for expenses paid. In attempting to execute this contract these four desperate souls clash over money and pre-natal care, exposing solidly American class issues and jeopardizing the baby's fate.

This well-acted production succeeded best at exposing the characters for who they really are. In the first act, the two mothers meet to discuss Wanda's pregnancy. Rachel, a liberal who cannot actualize her ideals through behavior, discovers that Wanda is not taking care of her fetus the way Rachel's doctor believes she should. Instead of avoiding caffeine, using an air conditioner, and taking vitamins, Wanda does what has always worked for her. Clearly uncomfortable will all aspects of Wanda and Al's lifestyle, Rachel exposes her own lack of parenting skills and condescends to the couple, guilt-tripping them about money and how they live. When Rachel and Wanda fight and Al reveals his brutish side, Rachel attempts to terminate their agreement. Ironically, it is Wanda who uses belly contact to manipulate Rachel into sticking with the deal.

Act 2 unfolds during the baby's birth, and here the men expose their own hypocritical natures. Rachel's husband Richard and his slick lawyer Ron (Todd Butera) have one foot in the delivery process and another in their business affairs. When Ron makes arrangements for a Yale student's baby, Richard considers whether he pursued the wrong donor couple. Al arrives late, and he and Richard clash over Al's attempt to wheedle a new car out of Richard. Richard loudly takes the high road, protesting Al's exploitation of his baby. But when Rachel returns after the delivery revealing birth complications and the possibility of defects, Richard's mask is removed as he opts to start over and pursue another fetus donor, leaving the baby to a potentially hopeless fate.

While thought-provoking and entertaining, the script could do with some reshaping. Because it largely adheres to presenting issues of class conflict, the play already feels dated by 30 years. Clashes over values are made ad nauseam in the overly long first act. In the second act, conflict needs deepening, especially between Rachel and Richard after he rejects the baby Rachel so desperately needs. Sharper direction (William Gilmore) could energize the conflict and keep the dramatized ideas from going stale. Set design (uncredited) and lighting design (Michael Abrams) were appropriate but rather pedestrian.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 Adam Cooper