“What just … happened?”
That’s the response Seven Siblings Director Erika Downie says she hopes to elicit from audiences through her vision for the company’s first full-length play of the season, Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby.
Baby, which opens at The Rhino on May 12, will mark the first time the dark comedy has ever been produced in Toronto. The intimate, four-person play also marks a first for Seven Siblings, a company known to work with a generous number of cast members.
Downie says that while the play is timeless and is able to resonate with just about any audience, Torontonians should find it particularly poignant, as Albee’s questions will be specifically tailored to them.
“It’s a play that speaks to individuality and identity, which is something that our generation in particular goes through on a day to day basis,” said Downie. “It really asks you who you are, not based off of gender, sexuality or any of these social constructions, but based off of your wounds … who you are, how you live, who you love, (and) what scars you have.”
Safe to say, Baby is a play that ends with a big question mark.
In it, audiences are introduced to Boy (Will King) and Girl (Nora Smith), who have a baby. Soon afterwards, Man (Scott McCulloch) and Woman (Judith Cockman), a middle-aged couple, break the fourth wall with a hodgepodge of life tales, until it is eventually revealed that they have come to steal the baby.
And just like how the characters break the fourth wall, Downie says she intends to do the very same thing aesthetically.
“The vision of the show is going to be something that’s a bit of a contradiction, because it’s (initially) so real – you’re going to look at the set and think ‘OK, we’re here and we’re seeing naturalism right on stage’ … then your world is quickly turned upside-down.”
As for the message of the show, Downie says it’s up to the audience members to interpret it as they will. While the opinions of critics and scholars continue to vary, Downie says for her, the plot is quite metaphorical.
“It hit strongly with me as a metaphor that the baby is a hope, a dream, something that is lost (and) that has to be lost,” she added.
Despite its grim, anecdotal nature, Downie says she wants the audience to be able to have a good time immersed in the mystery of it all.
“…It is lively, it flies off the page, there is a rhythm to it, and then there is a heart beneath it. That’s what I feel every audience member should walk away knowing: that there is a heart in the show, and that they were part of that.”
The Play About the Baby will be on stage May 12-21. For more information, visit http://www.sevensiblingstheatre.ca/.