SUMMIT - Dreamcatchers Repertory Theatre has taken on a thought provoking drama in "Electric Baby," two-act play by Stephanie Zadravee.
The plot starts off on a relatively light note, as the mother, Natalia, portrayed by Beth Painter, hovers over her baby in a crib, while alternately offering old Romanian folk tales. Like how to put a banana peel on your forehead if you’re starting to cough.
Almost all her solutions involve some kind of food. One of them has the person putting two raw potatoes under his arm pits. Painter is very entertaining, at times poignant, as she tries to entertain her child. Still, we see ultimately that something is wrong and the child may be dying.
From that rather enchanting initial scene, we shift to Helen and Reed Casey, who are leaving a party and arguing as they go. Then Helen steps out into the road, causing an accident that lands the driver, Ambimbola, in the hospital. Harriett Trangucci and Scott McGowan are the sparring couple. They play off each other effectively, with Reed as the long suffering husband and Helen refusing to recover after their child’s death. Trangucci carries off the role effectively, initially high strung and annoying, but gradually learning to let go through a variety of interactions.
It also seems that someone has been killed in this fluke accident. Andre DeSandies as Ambimbola delivers sage advice when he has the chance and does a wonderful job of engaging and disengaging others. Rozie, played by Sandy Sainvil, is the young woman who visits him. Sainvil has plenty of spark and presence to bring off this many-sided character. It appears she also has a relationship with Reed, Helen’s husband. Harry Patrick Christian appears in a variety of roles, as Dan, Don, and Dave. In some scenes, he has an intense interaction with Rozie, in another he visits Natalia and her child.
The play is set in Pittsburgh, where, surprisingly, one person says, there are tourists Many of these relationships are fragmented, especially Reed and Helen. But ultimately, their dysfunction leads to a new understanding of each other. Helen overcomes her fractured disconnect after the accident. Although the plot is convoluted, the message of hope comes through.
Directed by Laura Dern, the play moves along smoothly, with set and lighting design by Zach Pizza. The electric grids make a statement about moonlight and imagined locations. Zadravec is a playwright worth remembering. She wraps it all up with a certain mythology. But it definitely takes a high-caliber cast to bring off the timing and subtleties in this absorbing production.
For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit DreamcatcherRep.org. The Electric Baby continues through Oct. 18.
Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for Tapinto.net, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.
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