Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Yashowanto Ghosh
The Aquinas College Theatre Department’s first production for the semester will be the play “Baby with the Bathwater” by Christopher Durang. The show, directed by Aquinas professor Kyle Westmaas, will be staged Feb. 16–19.
About the playwright and the play: Durang won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2013 (for “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”) and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2006 (for “Miss Witherspoon”). He co-directs the playwriting program at Juilliard. “Baby with the Bathwater” is one of his earlier plays, and was first produced in 1983.
A couple of minutes before 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, the company (eight actors, the director, the assistant director, and two stage managers) were gathered in the rehearsal room in the basement of the Performing Arts Center, and the room was booming with talk and laughter. Then the director started the rehearsal, and the party broke up into three smaller groups. Two actors stayed in the room with the director and the stage manager, two other actors went to the stage area with the assistant director, and the remaining actors went to the lower lobby with the assistant stage manager. The group in the rehearsal room started working on a scene with two women in a park.
The scene in the lower lobby was built around a couple—Helen and John—who have just brought home from the hospital their new baby—the baby in the play’s title. The group was working on memorizing their dialogue, and the four actors briskly paced around in a circle while chanting their lines, with the assistant stage manager standing just outside their circle holding the text. The energy of the group approached the delirious, like the energy of a cult or a tribe performing some ancient religious ritual. Freshman Emily Cipriano, who plays Helen, knows Durang well, having worked on “Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike” before, and junior Tanner Kosten, who plays John, already played the same character when, during his freshman year, his Acting II class did the first scene of “Baby with the Bathwater.”
Back in the stage area, the same baby was all grown up (as Daisy in the photograph above), was in college, and was in the middle of ten years of therapy (the Voice in the photograph is Daisy’s therapist). This group was working not just on dialogue, but also on delivery and on movement, and it was fascinating to see how much deliberation goes into an end product where every move seems spontaneous.
At a break in their rehearsal, freshman Bridget Slezak, who plays both the Voice and Daisy’s wife Susan, said that the play presents an interesting view of what counts as normal. Freshman Devin Boxey, who plays Daisy, added that every character in the play is crazy, and yet the play has moments that are very real.
Later in the rehearsal room, two of the actors from the group that had been in the lower lobby rehearsed a scene from Daisy’s school days, with freshman Cassie Harrington, who had been Nanny in the lower lobby, now playing Daisy’s teacher Miss Pringle, and freshman Bryanna Lee, who had been Cynthia, now playing the principal, Mrs. Willoughby. Miss Pringle reads aloud Daisy’s deeply disturbed (and deeply disturbing) essay, hoping to get Daisy some much-needed help, and Mrs. Willoughby—well, you’ll have to go watch the play to find out how Mrs. Willoughby reacts. Let’s just say that Lee afterward called the play a brilliantly cringwothy caricature.
Professor Westmaas added that the play, for all the darkness of its humour, has an underlying human element. While the play moves from the birth of Daisy to the birth of Susan and Daisy’s baby, the implication isn’t the vicious cycle that the new baby’s life would mirror Daisy’s life, but rather a hope that the new baby may have a good life.
The rehearsal ended with the scene where Daisy tells Helen, John, and Nanny that he’s getting married.
Come watch the show at the Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 18, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19.
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