New Brunswick, NJ - The play based on Cris Bohjalian’s successful novel, “Midwives,” is receiving a thoughtful, haunting production at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.
The stirling cast brings each character to life during a stormy winter in Vermont. The first act takes place in a farmhouse bedroom, where Charlotte (Monique Robinson) is expected to soon give birth to a child. Her midwife, Sibyl (Ellen McLaughlin), initially thinks that all will go well.
But that gradually changes as Charlotte’s labor increases yet the baby is not arriving. Finally, Sibyl must perform a Caesian in order to save the child.
All this happens with commentary from Sibyl’s daughter, 14-year-old Connie (Molly Carden) who will later become an ob-gyn. (Scenes do move back and forth in time.) As the ordeal comes to a close, the young apprentice Anne (Gace Experience) is convinced that other decisions should have been made earlier, such as a hospital birth rather than home delivery.
However, there’s plenty of blame to go around, as we learn in Act II. In a courtroom scene Sibyl has been accused of murdering the pregnant mother. Charlotte’s husband Asa (Ryan George) is a minister and ultimately believes that Sibyl made the right decision in saving his newborn son.
John Bolger is understanding and concerned as Sibyl’s husband, Rand. Michael Cullen is the judge and Armand Schultz is the prosecuting attorney. Lee Sellars is the defense attorney. We also learn that Sibyl has kept journals over the years of her midwife experiences. Daughter Connie manages to remove some pages that could be incriminating.
So we have a conflict that pits the medical profession and hospitals against the midwives who offer the experience of having childbirth at home. In this tautly told tale, each side has its proponents and the tension builds as the various ramifications are explored.
Artistic Director David Saint has kept a fluid pacing as the struggle goes on. Shoko Kambara’s set perfectly reflects the isolation of this home in the New England countryside. With original music by Scott Killian and lighting by David Lander, we are transported to 1985 and the conflicting emotions raised by the theme of “Midwives.”
Performances continue through Feb. 16 at the newly redesigned and refurbished George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. For tickets, call 732-246-7717 or visit GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org.