The Baby, now playing in Toronto, is “hilarious, self-aware, and irreverent.”
I faced a dilemma when it came to reviewing The Baby playing at the The Storefront Theatre. Do I watch the original film or give writer and director Dan Spurgeon’s adaptation of Abe Polsky’s script virgin eyes? I decided to eschew the film, as this is the second production of Spurgeon’s adaptation, and I have no doubt it won’t be the last.
What do you get when you put a secretive social worker in the house of an oddball family that keeps a grown man diapered-up and crib-ridden? You get a hilarious, self-aware, and irreverent show with no boundaries, and thankfully so. While one would expect the Wadsworths and their “baby” to keep things weird, the seemingly sweet and good-hearted social worker Ann Gentry also has some secrets hidden behind her kind demeanour.
When we first meet Mama, Alba, and Germaine Wadsworth, Ann has been charged with the care of their son and brother, Baby. Baby comes as advertised. He coos, he cries, he wears a diaper and sleeps in a crib. Baby also happens to be in his twenties, a fact that doesn’t faze Ann in the least due to her professionalism.
Then, as the show gets into its meat, things get weirder in awesome ways.
Frank Blocker – reprising his role as Mama Wadsworth from the original Los Angeles production – is nothing less than brilliant. His commitment to every facet of the role shows his experience playing Mama, but also his skill as a performer. When the audience was in stitches from one of Blocker’s lines he kept his focus. At a couple points he ended scenes with a smirk and I couldn’t tell whether this was Blocker laughing along with us, or Mama’s conniving nature showing through. Either way, it worked and showed him to be a confident and adept performer.
Alicia Richardson as the devious Alba and Claire Burns as the bouncy (but not blameless) Germaine compliment Blocker’s Mama and each other well. Richardson is unrelenting and unrepentant as the punishment guru for Baby, and Burns, while appearing to be an archetypal bountiful blonde, had more going on beneath her golden locks. I knew that whenever either was on stage, something welcome and untoward was about to happen, with amusing results.
There’s something about Ann Gentry that just isn’t right, but the way Jeanie Calleja plays this complex character is right on. Calleja transitions from caring to borderline cuckoo with an ease that points to her experience in comedy. Her timing in knowing when to hold a line or wistful gaze into the beyond is one of the big assets of this show.
I’m not sure where Jeff Dingle goes to become Baby, but whatever realm he inhabits while playing the literal man-child must be a place filled with memories of his diaper years. Dingle plays Baby with such authenticity one could safely assume he suffers from the same disorder as his character. If Blocker is the brain of the show and Calleja is its muscle, Dingle is the heart, beating constantly so everything can work around and with him to make things run smooth.
Candi Zell also deserves a big shout out for her small, but comedic and vital part as Judith. Every time Zell showed up I knew I was about to laugh.
The scene transitions were also done very well. While the lights were down and sets were being moved and traded, the actors never broke character and I felt this added to the overall feeling and light heartedness of the performance.
At one point there also appeared to be a tech issue with respect to music playing over dialogue. I can’t say for certain if this was an actual issue or if it was an intended part of the show, but either way, Blocker handled it with what appeared to be a quick ad lib and things carried on.
While not for all audiences due to some mature content, The Baby is for those seeking something fun and cheeky. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself, nor some of its more lurid subject matter too seriously, and this is why it wins. It laughs at itself as we in the audience laugh along with it.
- The Baby is playing until November 1st, 2015 at The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm
- Ticket are $25, and are available online, or through the box office at (416) 531-1117
- Notes: Mature Themes, Nudity, Drug References
Photo of Frank Blocker, Jeff Dingle, Jeanie Calleja, and Claire Burns by John Gundy