Albee’s Challenging Absurdist “Play About the Baby” at the Custom Made Theatre

Edward Albee’s absurdist Play About the Baby (1996) premiered on the West Coast at San Francisco’s Custom Made Theatre to bring a stark caricature of young marriage, the birth and loss of a baby, and an older couple’s lessons.

The first half of the play presents a realistic view of a happy amorous young couple running around nude on stage and making love off stage and then having a baby. An older couple suddenly appears to tell them stories including some about the Woman’s past lovers the truth of which the Man questions. When the couple ask why they have come there they reply to take away their baby.

In the second half of the play during the older couple prove to the young couple as they unroll the empty baby blanket that there never was a baby. This farce like approach heightens the cruel caricatured tone of the action and sharpens the irony of the message that life brings loss and wounds. Yet, a consolation is provided in Man’s ending words “If you don’t have wounds how do you know you’re alive?”

From whence comes Albee’s absurdist reality?
Does Albee’s depiction of loss stem from his belief that when an adopted child is removed from one mother and given to an unknown one deprivation occurs?
Is this sordidly fascinating combination of reality and non-reality a metaphor of the playwright’s nightmarish interpretation of being an adopted child?
Does the play’s absurdist conclusion reflect the playwright’s concern for undergoing life’s losses that we nonetheless need to face to better know ourselves?

Masterfully directed by veteran director Brian Katz, who incorporates interesting Commedia and vaudeville elements, the role of The Woman is performed with charm and authority by Linda Ayres- Frederick and with vivacity and wit by Richard Aiello. Anya Kazimierski and Shane Rhoades bring youthful freshness and innocence to their roles of Girl and Boy.

What do scenic designer Sarah Phykitt’s multiple chairs nailed on the back wall that call to mind Ionesco’s Chairs represent in this play?

Costumes and non-costumes by Maxx Kurzunski enhance the absurdist element of the play.

Kudos to Custom Made ‘s efforts and perseverance to produce thought provoking absurdist theatre inciting query.

The Play About the Baby closed on Ocober 14. For info about this production and Tracy Letts’ upcoming Superior Donuts call 415-798-2682 or visit www.custommade.org.

Annette Lust