NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A baby is born, a woman is dead and we are left to cogitate over a series of decisions made by a midwife on a stormy Vermont night.
The characters in George Street Playhouse’s gripping production of “Midwives,” adapted by for the stage for the first time from Chris Bohjalian’s best-selling novel, all come to ice-slicked crossroads.
They sometimes anguish over their choices, and even after they’re made, it’s not always clear what was right, what was wrong or if they’re a little of each.
It just might leave you reflecting on some of the not-so-simple decisions you’ve made, and therein lies the power of David Saint’s “Midwives,” which runs through Feb. 16 at George Street Playhouse.
Sibyl Danforth (Ellen McLaughlin) is a midwife with hundreds of at-home births under her belt. She has made a career at being, in her words, a baby catcher.
Over the course of the first act, however, things go from bad to worse for Charlotte Fugett Bedford (Monique Robinson) and her husband Asa (Ryan George), a black couple trying to give birth in their home.
And as if medical complications, a 13-hour labor, impassable country roads and downed phone lines aren’t enough, there’s Danforth’s apprentice. Anne Austin (Grace Experience) is a panicking presence that heightens the tension in the Bedford’s bedroom and tests Danforth’s calm and confidence.
Connie Danforth (Molly Carden), Sibyl’s daughter, acts as a narrator throughout the production. Connie is an adult who has decided to pursue a career as an OB/GYN – yet another interesting decision.
The first act reaches a breathless ending with Danforth trying to decide what to do when Bedford goes unconscious and shows no pulse or heartbeat. Has Bedford suffered a stroke? Can Danforth save the baby? Has she done enough to save the mother?
The second act trades in the bedroom for a courtroom as the decisions that Danforth made in those precious few moments come under the watchful gaze of prosecutor Bill Tanner (Armand Schultz).
And as we watch a trial build to a crescendo on the Arthur Laurents Theater stage, a daughter must decide if she will break the law if might mean keeping her mother from going to jail.
Makes you wonder, what would you do?