Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Electric Baby" from Quantum Theatre

"The Electric Baby" is a drama about the interconnections between children, parents and the stories that bind us. When a couple have a child who shines like the moon, like the moon the boy attracts awe, stories and people in search of light in the darkness.

There is an odd complexity to "The Electric Baby" that makes it fascinating. If you enjoy reality, there are cab drivers, lottery tickets, car accidents, etc. If you enjoy magic, there are babies that glow like the moon, folk tales that tell the future and a whole lot of Fate. However, the "magical realism" that the show amounts to is something unique (and probably not what the term "magical realism" means to you). And "unique" is what Quantum Theatre does very well.

Robin Abramson as the Romanian wife and mother Natalia is captivating. From her first lines to the heart-breaking conclusion, she magically spins home remedy yarns, the Romanian interpretation of African fairy-tales and theatre rules with strength and ingenuity.

Her Nigerian husband, Ambimbola, played by Monteze Freeland is also a charmer. Alternate funny-man and philosopher, Freeland steals scenes with his graceful performance. Through amazing skill, Freeland and Abramson pull off an amazing feat and form one of the strongest bonds in the production - one that can be felt although the characters almost never meet onstage.
The supporting cast, Laurie Klatscher and John Shepard as Helen and Reed Casey, an older couple who lost their eldest daughter years ago, Ruth Gamble as the young waitress/call girl with a heart of formica and a poison tongue, and Nick Lehane as an ever-changing series of male characters, also work with great ability, but the play is at it's best when it centers on the mystical foreign parents and the stories they use to cope with their "electric baby".

The set is hypnotic and clunky all at the same time. Quantum Theatre is a roving theatre company that utilizes found spaces. The room, a found space at the Waldorf School in Pittsburgh, features hand-painted walls decorated in an assortment of birds and mythical figures while the ceiling is done up like the sky all set against tall windows that reveal the actual night sky. What makes the site clunky are the series of "mini-stages" that were built. These provide levels and some set locations. However, the virtue of a found space is that it is located, not created for a production - altering it to include a set "stage" playing space seems - in this eponymous opinion - to take the "found" out of the "found space".

When all is said and done, "The Electric Baby" is a great reminder of the "magic" of theatre. There are no projections, on-stage tricks, "magic" that requires lots of technical aptitute - just a mystical use of language and relationships that hits on something fantastical but real all at the same time.

Tickets for "The Electric Baby" can be found here:

- The Eponymous Theatre Critic writes for a variety of seedy, low-reputed, forgetful, fact-negligent Marxist papers that are heavily circulated through car wind-shield wipers in Portland, Oregon.