By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In more ways than that, the actors of Little Dog Laughed remain in the dark.
Next time a character in a play turns to the audience and asks a question, let's do this: Answer back.
The Little Dog Laughed continues through November 18 at WaterTower Theatre, Addison, 972-450-6232.
The Play About the Baby continues through November 10 at Bath House Cultural Center, 214-675-6573.
If playwrights insist on employing the tiresome gimmick of direct address, we need to rebel by not sitting quietly when they get in our faces. The temptation to speak up is almost irresistible in Edward Albee's 2001 drama The Play About the Baby, now onstage in an area premiere by WingSpan Theatre Company at the Bath House Cultural Center.
When the character named Man looked out at the crowd during the first act and asked, "Do you believe any of this?," my inner hater so wanted to shout, "No! Can I go home now?"
Albee's pulling one over on us this time. He's taken the brilliant complexity of his own masterpiece, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and broken it down to simple absurdity. An unmarried older couple named Man and Woman (played by man and wife actors Bill Jenkins and Linda Leonard) invade the happy Eden of Boy and Girl (Joel McDonald, Jennifer Youle) shortly after the birth of the young couple's baby. Gradually, the elders ruin the idyllic marriage of the youngsters with suggestions of infidelity. Then they take their baby. If there was a baby. Which maybe there wasn't.
Albee and his invisible offspring. Yawn. He's done it so many times—replaying the alienation from unfeeling adoptive parents, some say—that he should be over it by now. We certainly are.
He never stops with the braying monologues. He has a favorite phrase—"Oh, what a wangled teb we weave"—that Man and Woman say over and over. Characters deliver so many solo speeches full of crude jokes and weird repetition, the only option for the listener, other than scrambling for the exit in the dark, is to ignore the windy riffs and let the mind wander. Or, in WingSpan's production, let the eyes settle on Ms. Leonard's heaving bosoms, spilling out of a low-cut red dress and starring in a pleasantly distracting show of their own.
In an inverse situation to WaterTower's miscast quartet in Little Dog Laughed, WingSpan's four actors (six if you include the cleavage) are far better than the play they're in. Technically, vocally, emotionally, physically, they invest too much of their considerable talent in Albee's empty script. The staging by director Susan Sargeant in the Bath House's tiny arena—dressed out as a playpen by designer Wade Giampa—makes brilliant use of actors and space. She's serving pabulum on fine bone china.
And do we believe any of it? No, baby, not a word.