Wednesday, March 7, 2012

High Strung Menage a Trois Makes Myriad of Mirthful Moments

It’s probably good to go to a staging of "And Baby Makes Seven" forearmed with the knowledge that the children who babble about where babies come from in the opening scene are purely imaginary.
When the curtain rises on a darkened stage at Washington's Off the Wall Theater, we hear the juvenile voices of Cecil, 9, an even-tempered, erudite child; Henri, 8, originally from Paris with a melodious French accent to boot; and Orphan, 7, an infant terrible raised in the wild by a pack of canines.
When I say imaginary children, think not on the order of George and Martha’s non-existent son in "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe" but part of a psychological dynamic that involves three real people, two lesbians and a gay man, who fade in and out of their real selves to become their youthful alter egos in a uniquely unconventional domestic menage a trois.
Rather than suffer from multiple personality disorders or schizophrenia, the two women seem merely to find reality a bit too confining for their overactive imaginations and create a complex cerebral game to let off some steam and enervate their relationship. Peter, the gay man, goes along with their shenanigans, but reaches a crisis point when one of the women, Anna, is due to have a child he fathered.
Some might like to explore the play for its psychological "there’s a child in everyone" undertones or as a model for unusual sort of dysfunctional family. But I merely sat back and enjoyed Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paul Vogel’s comedic skills and madcap vignettes and left my thinking cap in the lobby.
Tressa Glover as the energetic Ruth taps more into her inner child than her partner, Anna, physically burdened by the most pre-birth belly swelling ever, adroitly making the transition from adult to devious wolf child or refined Parisian boy with the flick of an eye.
Robyne Parrish as Anna is a bit more reserved than Ruth in her adult persona but makes the most drastic and abrupt change of the two women when she taps into her child identity. Tolerating the antics of his two female room mates, Tony Bingham as Peter adds a richly nuanced performance to the mix and serves as an anchor of authenticity in the make believe world he cohabits.
As director, Linda Haston establishes the right rhythm for the series of short scenes that make up the play, sound designer, Michael Moats, picks an versatile array of interesting thematic sounds that tie the scenes together and set designer, Paul A. Shaw, comes up with an attractive, rock solid space in which the arcane whimsy unfolds.
Near the breaking point of forbearance, Peter suggests putting away the fatuous children to make way for the real thing. The women reluctantly agree to his plan, and, one by one, the fictitious boys fade away in some if the play’s most intriguing scenes.
However, just when it seems the play will end on a realistic note, the playwright turns the table on expectations and ends her comic fairy tale on a delicious note. With "And Baby Makes Seven," Washington’s Off the Wall Theater comes up with yet another delightful way to spend the evening.