by Phil Kinen, guest reviewer
Who gets to be God when creating a baby? The mother? Both parents? The doctor? Perhaps the Stork? Jacqueline Goldfinger new play, “Babel”, now playing at The Unicorn Theatre, is a compelling play concerning just how far society will go to protect itself.
The gripping, well-crafted play leads the audience to the result that despite playing God, with the best of intentions, everyone still remains only human.
The play begins in a near-future dystopian society with water scarce, and humanity flatlining. In order to assure survival offspring must be genetically altered–a practice politically deemed acceptable by most of the human race
Within the first few weeks of a pregnancy, prospective parents learn the genetic makeup and traits their child possesses. Based on the test results, the child is pre-certified as a with limits to its freedoms.
After several years of trying, Renee and Dani have conceived a child but quickly learn of a certain trait discrepancy which renders the child uncertified. The female couple face a choice of deciding to end the pregnancy or facing thousands of dollars on the child’s uncertified care. And to make matters worse, the couple’s best friends, Jamie and Ann have just conceived, and without knowing their child’s certification, seek Dani and Renee’s advice on how to get certified. In addition, a seemingly subconscious Big Bird-like stork tails Renee, encouraging her not to have the baby.
Ian Crawford’s fast pace direction reveals the smartness of the play. The clipped tempo of the second scene phone conversation between Renee and Dani indicates an evening of swift storytelling. Several lean in twists towards the end of the play reveals event changing circumstance for the characters. Crawford’s skillful direction maintains a sharp stride during this time and prevents the play from going off the rails.
Strong performances by all four actors round out the play’s thought-provoking material. Any O’Connor’s appealing portrayal of young mother, Renee, captures viewers immediately with her yoga exercises and doesn’t let go until the final curtain. Katie Gilchrist’s exceptionally exquisite Dani shines when revealing the character’s wicked double edge. Yetunde Felix-Ukwu deftly executes a sharp, and at times, baffled Ann and Jake Walker is particularly compelling while performing double duty as Jamie and The Stork.
Em Swenson’s stunning set design looks like it came from the pages of Dwell magazine. A versatile construct of concrete and polished wood denotes two different apartments, a street, a parking garage, and with the neat use of projections, a seaside beach. Art Kent’s precise lighting design not only accents the set itself but clearly distinguishes the various locales of the play.
Others on the production team are Shon Ruffiin, Assistant Director; Tanya Brown, Stage Manager; Hannah Taylor, Dramaturg; Abigayle Huggins, Production Assistant; Gretchen Hale, Costume Designer; and Eric Palmquist, Props Designer.
“Babel” continues to play Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, January 28 – 30 and February 4 – 6 at 7:30. Friday and Saturday evening performances are Dec 31 – February 1 and Feb 7 – 8 at 8:00 pm. A Sunday afternoon matinee is February 2 at 3:00 pm. Tuesday – Thursday tickets are Pay What You Can, and January 28, February 2, and February 4 will feature a talkback session after each performance. Tickets are available
For tickets, call The Unicorn box office, stop by the box office prior to the performance, or purchase online through The Unicorn website.
Tags: “Babel” review, Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment