Review: The Baby Dance Mixed
The script is a close re-working of Anderson's earlier adoption drama The Baby Dance, but the new material and changing the two couples involved to a mixed Jewish/Black couple and an all-Black couple really make this a different play. In spite of the attempted highlighting of the race issues, both plays are essentially morality tales about class. Even in the new Mixed version, the black issues are mostly about class differentiation within the Black American experience, especially in the long first act passage between the two women.
The new version was workshopped extensively with its Black cast members before opening. Thus, fortunately, we get a supper of collard greens and fried chicken instead of sandwiches. We also get a more realistic differentiation between Wanda's language, phrasing, and accent against Regina's highly educated, upwardly mobile American English.
Even so, there's something strange about Anderson's script. First, the trailer park thing. Is a Black couple living in a trailer park with Hispanic neighbors in the deep South a realistic situation? The trailer park culture modeled in the play still feels very much like the White trash trailer park culture of the original play. Does this dimension of the original script translate into the new script? Of course all playwrights are free, even encouraged, to deconstruct any and all stereotypes. But this is a play about cast and stereotypes, so the question arises: is it an appropriately authentic portrayal? Does it ring true or false?
Second, the way conjugal violence is treated in the play. It is there, full force in one scene and below the surface throughout the first act: the kids are "staying" at the grandparents because the hubby "gets emotional," for instance. Yet once revealed, the issue of physical abuse disappears into the void for the rest of the play. This seems awkward structurally, perhaps irresponsible, morally. What is the playwright trying to do here? Why bring this element, critical to any decision regarding a baby, one would think, brought into the light, then forgotten with such facile disregard?
But enough, no flaws in the script can keep this juggernaut of a cast from delivering a terrific night of theatre.
The Baby Dance Mixed by Jane Anderson
Directed by Jenny Sullivan
Starring Brian Robert Burns, Gabriel Lawrence, Tracy Leigh, Carl Palmer, Krystle Rose Simmons, with Donna Simone Johnson, Wrekless Watson, and Joseph Fuqua understudies
Thomas Buderwitz, scenic design; Derrick McDaniel, lighting design; Alex Jaeger, costume design; Randall Robert Tico, sound design; T. Theresa Scarano, set dressing and properties design; Jonatan Stover, production consultant; Jessie Vacchiano, production stage management
Rubicon Theatre Company
2 May - 20 May 2018