If you are a fan of magical realism and enjoy metaphors being acted out on the stage, Rivendell Theatre’s production of “The Electric Baby” will probably be much to your liking.
Like many a Shakespeare play or movies in recent decades where drugs, plane or car accidents bring unlikely-to-meet strangers together, “The Electric Baby” tells the story of improbable meetings between people tangling with loss- past or future.
Two protagonists are middle-aged parents (Helen, played by Meighan Gerachis, and Reed, played by H.B. Ward) who had lost their adult daughter some years before to an unexpected brain aneurism.
Their foils of sorts are two parents of a mysterious baby who literally lights up the room (Ambimbola, played by Lionel Gentle, and Natalia, played by Kathy Logelin).
Add to that a potty-mouthed confused young hooker (Rozie, played by Amanda Powell) and various young men who trigger her grief-charged psychosis (all played skillfully by understudy Will Crouse) and you get the excellent cast of this Tempest redux circa 2013.
While we get to know the two American parents in great depth, we know African “Bimbo” and his Romanian wife “Rosie” more superficially and largely though the folktales of their homelands.
This folklore makes for colorful imagery, if not in- depth character development. I, for one, will never think of a crow or the moon quite the same because of the poetic way these symbols are used by playwright Stefanie Zadravec.
That said, it is perhaps telling that the lobby’s wall-posted interview with the playwright about her own experiences as the mother of a sick baby later diagnosed with autism provided more wrenching drama than the play beyond lobby walls.
This was in no way due to any deficiencies among the actors. Meighan Gerachis and H.B. Ward’s delivery of affect-perfect lines was exquisite.
Lionel Gentle, not unlike the 200% optimist character he plays, was simply magnetic on the stage.
One obstacle perhaps that got in the way was the set design and staging. It’s not clear if Rivendell always must tangle with the physical obstacles of two short rows for the audience framed by two small sets on the sides. Whether or how much this detracted from the production is unclear—but it certainly was not an added plus.
This is a new space for Rivendell Theater, a woman-centered theater company. This is a young playwright. The direction by Tara Mallen obviously brought out stellar performances from the cast. It will probably pay off to keep an eye on all the talent that this Rivendell production showcased.
Set /seating photo and photo of Kathy Logen playing a knitting Natalia by Peter Kachergis
All other photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux photos