Intimate production of Edward Albee play takes to the Toronto stage
If you’re in the mood to grab a few drinks at a fine Queen West establishment, have a some hearty laughs, and then seriously question the fabric of your reality, then boy have I got a play for you: Toronto Indie theater company Seven Siblings Theatre‘s production of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer-nominated show, The Play About The Baby.
This play is a weird beast bearing some similarities to Albee’s most famous work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It’s a surreal dark comedy about a Boy (Will King) and a Girl (Nora Smith) whose world is turned upside down when a strange older couple mysteriously shows up in their home.
I’ll be honest, when I sat down for this play I was on the tail end of a weird week. Seated in the upper floor of The Rhino, a Parkdale bar, I became genuinely concerned that this would mar my experience and taint my review of The Play About The Baby—which is why I’m so glad to have been pleasantly surprised by this delightfully odd show that Seven Siblings has put together.
I wasn’t familiar with The Play About The Baby before this, and I’ve got to say that I absolutely love this script. It’s an absurdist comedy that will prompt a lot of self-reflection. The dialogue can seem obtuse and the themes covered are diverse and challenging, but it all comes together to make a very enjoyable (albeit strange) show. It was offbeat, funny, sometimes frightening, and consistently poignant.
While show is initially difficult to get on board with, it’s immensely rewarding once you do. At first, the unnatural dialogue was off-putting, but as the show progressed I became accustomed to it and even found that the way the characters expressed their thoughts felt very honest. This is a complex script with a lot of depth, and I think that director Erika Downie’s take on it really fleshed out its layers.
I found that The Rhino was a bit of an odd performance space with poor sightlines; however, Downie’s blocking made great use of the room and I think many guests appreciated having a full bar downstairs during intermission. While not ideal, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing another show there. The tightness of the space did make the play feel very intimate, and the actors played off this very well.
The actors were all impressive, with a standout performance from Scott McCulloch as the Man, and powerful performances from the others as well. McCulloch is wonderfully expressive and engaging, and his performance was elevated by the strength of the rest of the cast. Judith Cockman was quirky and enigmatic as McCulloch’s counterpart, the Woman. Meanwhile, Will King and Nora Smith gave heartbreaking, vulnerable performances as the Boy and Girl.
Seven Siblings’ production took me on a roller-coaster of emotions: from wistful and tender to confused and melancholic.The Play About The Baby goes to some dark places, and also asks you to explore those places within yourself. I’m not sure that everyone will be game for the weirdness this show has to offer, but I really enjoyed it.
- The Play About The Baby is playing at The Rhino (1249 Queen St. West) until May 21, 2017.
- Shows are at 8:00 PM.
- Tickets are $25, with Artsworker and Student discounts.
- You can buy the tickets online or at the front door.
- Run time is 2h 15 min.
- Audience Advisory: Contains crude language, mature themes
Photo of Judith Cockman, Will King, Nora Smith, and Scott McCulloch provided by the company.