The Care Takers deliver a haunting tale of mental illness, at the Storefront Theatre in Toronto
Taking Care of Baby, playing at The Storefront Theatre, is a haunting, dark, and at points humorous take on the impact of mental illness on a family. Billed as a “fake documentary”, with the overall theme of “truth” at its core, Taking Care of Baby presents us with various characters and various truths, which made for an intriguing Friday night.
Taking Care of Baby follows the story of Donna McAuliffe’s (Miranda Calderon) alleged murder of her two infant children. Donna’s therapist, Dr. Millard (Richard Clarkin), asserts that Donna suffers from LKS, a recently discovered psychological disorder, wherein the sufferer misplaces feelings of empathy and negatively redirects them towards their child.
Various sides of the story are presented including those of her husband, her mother, and her therapist, in addition to Donna herself, which adds to the intrigue.
The juxtaposition of the severe tragedy and the comedic scenes is brilliant and while playwright Dennis Kelly definitely deserves credit for this, the big ovation goes to Director Birgit Schreyer Duarte, and the entire cast.
Miranda Calderon as Donna plays unbalanced with such subtlety. I always felt like she was on the edge. I could feel her anxiety and mental instability in her delivery of the dialogue, with pauses and emphasis at the perfect places. Donna’s mind is clearly troubled and, by Calderon’s portrayal of her, it would be hard to convince me that Calderon was not also if I had no background on the production.
Astrid Van Wieren as Donna’s mother Lynn shines as a driven politician. As the show gets into its meat, the various layers of Lynn’s character are revealed and Van Wieren doesn’t miss a beat jumping from the smiling and hand-shaking of her professional life to the shaking and distraught persona of her personal life.
I enjoyed the casting decisions overall, with supporting actors playing multiple roles. The aspect of this I thought most brilliant was, for example, Dylan Trowbridge playing the severely disturbed husband of Donna in one turn, and then in the next scene, playing Lynn’s light-hearted political lackey.
Similarly with Craig Lauzon, playing a sniffling, straight-laced politician, after playing a foul-mouthed, lecherous reporter.
Having the actors play such different characters showed their talent, but also helped distinguish the characters from the actor who may have just been in the scene previous.
Taking Care of Baby is also a show with a series of monologues that help to piece together the truth of Donna’s story and the impact of her alleged actions from the perspectives of those closest to her. Though the monologues were prevalent, Schreyer Duarte’s work shines through in that it felt as though the characters are still very much interacting, though they inhabit different times and spaces.
With such dark subject matter at hand, I was a bit worried about how I would feel leaving this show. The material is presented with talent and expertise, however, so I left feeling thoroughly entertained. If you are interested in searching for “the truth” and being entertained while doing so, check out Taking Care of Baby at the The Storefront.
- Taking Care of Baby is playing until February 14, 2016 at The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
- Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, with a Sunday matinee at 2pm
- Tickets are $25 and are available online (recommended) or at the venue, with occasional promo codes available through The Storefront Theatre Facebook page
- Audience Advisory: Mature themes and mature language
Photo of Miranda Calderon by John Gundy