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Baby wants a normal family

June 19, 2013

baby-postcard-for-webopt2The Baby (by Abe Polsky, addapted/directed by Dan Spurgeon) truly belongs at Fringe Hollywood, and The Visceral Company. The Baby was originally a horror movie from 1973. It falls into the iconic horror category of “cult classic”. There are two common ways for a cult classic to go. Blood and gore everywhere, or psychological thriller. The Baby went with the latter, and in the hands of Dan Spurgeon it was adapted well for the stage.

The Baby investigates the lives of an American family; a mother Mama Wadsworth (Frank Blocker) and her two adult daughters. The story centers around a social worker paying a visit to the family, you see Mama Wadsworth has a third child. A 21-year-old man with the mind of an infant. As the story progresses we learn that Mama Wadsworth and her daughters are more than a little overprotective and obsessed with Baby (Torrey Halverson). Unfortunately Baby‘s social worker isn’t all she appears to be.

The Baby deals with intense emotions and delicate subject matter. It raises questions like where does society draw the line between love and overprotection. There are also a few graphic scenes; such as when Baby‘s syphilitic, and demented sister has her way with him. This comes on the heels of the entire family threatening to kill a babysitter for suckling Baby.

I was riveted throughout the entire performance. From the lighting to the music and even the sound effects, everything drew you into the world of The Baby. Even when there was a little lighting snafu the actors rolled with the punches. Alba (Cloie Wyatt Taylor) joked that children who won’t behave are locked in a dark closet “like this” referencing all the lights going out. When Mama Wadsworth is scolding Alba, she blames her negligence in terms of watching Baby on the power outage. It was fun to see (or rather hear) the actors role with the punches instead of just freezing on stage waiting for it to be fixed.

In a cast of 11, some playing multiple roles it’s difficult to single out everyone. There were several performances that stood out so much I would be remiss not to shine a spotlight on. This is the second time I have seen Frank Blocker perform. The last time being a one-man show where he played over 20 characters. Frank is a master of his voice and body. He is able to control his body language and mannerisms painting a picture of a distraught middle-aged woman perfectly. Layer on top of that his voice control; from happy through angry to scared and you have a complete package. You believe a middle-aged woman is on stage. Natasha Charles Parker portrayed Germaine as a cross between seductress and psychopath. You never knew when the switch would be flipped, but once it was flipped you knew you were looking at a sex fiend or someone who’s going to stab you. Jana Wimer convinced me Ann Gentry was a kindly, loving social worker. Until she pulled off her mask and you realize she was actually as crazy as the rest of them. When she was innocent she looked so innocent, she was crazy she was scary because she could still pass for innocent. Torrey Halverson must be mentioned. Baby is in many scenes, after all the story is named after him. He is part set piece, part character. When on stage he is alwayse doing something. He doesn’t distract from the action or dialogue though, which is hard to pull off. When you glance over to him he is a baby, and you could watch him all night. You aren’t supposed to though, there is a story to watch. Being able to be present, alwasye in motion, but not distracting takes talent and body control. Torrey added pressence to every scene without pulling away from the rest of the cast. Lastly Karen Kahler is a joy to watch. Twice now I’ve seen her portray characters who on their surface appear to be kind elderly women. You want her to watch your children, unfortunately they’ll come back chopped up into little tiny pieces. Karen excels at making crazy people seem perfectly normal. Even if you know her characters are serial killers, you’ll still ask her to watch your kids she’s just such an nice crazy person.

Overall The Baby was a fun ride with a few unexpected twists and turns. It couldn’t be a psychological horror or cult classic without those twists and turns. Pulling off those twists and turns without making them seem cliché is the hard part. The Visceral Company makes it look easy.

baby photo

The Baby runs through the end of June.

Visit the visceral company and Hollywood Fringe for more details

From → Reviews

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