THE BABY IS BLUE
Nothing brings people together quite like grief... except, perhaps, art. Or both. Matt Schatz's new drama, The Baby is Blue, explores the psyches of four people brought together by the heartbreak of lost children and their connections to a mysterious song. Through gently winding plot twists, secrets are revealed, past pain becomes present, and no one is left undamaged.
Not exactly a comedy. And, as dramas go, not terribly deep, either. While there are some impressively powerful moments, The Baby is Blue spends more time unraveling an obvious mystery than developing the interesting characters. Ideally, as we follow these people's lives and figure out their connections, we should learn more about them as characters. Instead, the potentially fascinating histories of each character are glossed over in favor of rather obvious plot twists that don't do much to move the plot or reveal very much about the characters. Twenty minutes could easily be cut from this play, and the best moments would still shine through and touch the heart.
Most of these moments belong to Ayelet Blumberg as a mysterious but charming young girl who may hold answers to some of the riddles. Alternately winsome and haunting, the young adult plays the child effortlessly, making her role the most interesting of the lot. Elizabeth Schmidt, Michael Hardart, and Ethan Baum aptly round out the talented ensemble of wounded creatures in search of healing, creating some lovely moments of connection between the various lost souls. The overall mood is maintained by S. Caden Hethorn's consistent and even direction, and if the pace drags on occasion, it's only suitable, echoing the gradual disintegration of the characters' memories and lives. This play, while needing some refining and reshaping, has moments of aching beauty that make it worth a visit.
The Baby is Blue runs until Saturday, August 6th at 1:30pm at the Workshop Jewel Space Theatre.
In a much lighter but no less profound vein, Sean Michael Welch's comedy End Caligula manages to hit the elusive balance between political satire and political commentary with deft skill, scoring plenty of laughs and not a little introspection. An imaginative and witty reimagining of the final days of the notorious Roman emperor, this is one of those rare theatrical gems in which everything just clicks. The script is sharp and funny. The actors have flawless comic timing. Stacee Mandeville's direction is nearly balletic in its rhythms, while always seeming on the verge of spinning right out of control.
Using some of the more notorious legends surrounding the emperor, Welch's quasi-Stoppardian script features just about every classical element of comedy, from clever wordplay to slapstick to pure dry wit. And just when the laughs seem unable to top themselves, some political or social commentary offers a much needed break and a chance to reflect on the true issues of incompetent rulers and the power of the media in forming our opinions of them. These suspensions not only let the audience catch its collective breath, they add some depth to the story, making the experience truly emotional as well as hilarious.
As the hapless senators who decide to take action against their corrupt leader, Matt Scott and Ryan Blackwell conjure delightful images of Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. With dazzling chemistry and timing, Scott and Blackwell take the already strong script to new heights, finding laughs where I imagine even Welch would not have expected them. As Claudius, Caligula's stuttering uncle and successor, Offie Sherman is both poignant and innocently adorable, playing the not-so-foolish fool beautifully. Heather Lasnier is sexy and cunning as a manipulative and determined journalist , and Katherine Harte is dryly hilarious as a by-the-books soldier. As Caligula himself, Jesse Sneddon aptly serves as the play's straight man, but is a little less memorable than his castmates for it.
As there is precious little contemporary information about Caligula, all of the subsequent legends about him must be taken with a grain of salt. Welch takes this into consideration, framing everything so that we rarely know what is actually happening offstage, only what people say is happening. In that way, perhaps this play is a much more accurate portrayal of Roman history than others. If nothing else, it's almost certainly more amusing.
End Caligula's final performance is on Sunday, August 7 at 5:30 p.m at the Workshop Jewel Box Theatre.