Saturday, October 28, 2006

And Baby Makes Seven (convergence-continuum)

Another thought-provoking and weird experience at convergence-continuum

At intermission, the woman sitting next to me at the opening night production of Paula Vogel’s ‘AND BABY MAKES SEVEN,’ at convergence-continuum theatre, said, “Well, it’s another one of those Clyde Simon thought-provoking, weird experiences.”

Yes, thought-provoking and weird are the general rule at convergence, Cleveland’s off, off, way off Broadway home of scripts that no one else in the Cleveland area drama scene will produce.

On the surface, the play seems to be straight forward. Two lesbians (Ruth and Anna) decide to have children with the help of Peter, their gay male friend. Okay, no problem there. That’s what you think. Vogel’s creativity lets lose, and in order to prepare for the impending birth, she has the women develop child alter-egos. The fantasy rug rats aren’t your run of the mill kids. Orphan is a feral wild-child raised by dogs at the New York Port Authority, who may or may not have rabies. Henri is a misplaced Parisian, borrowed from the movie ‘THE RED BALLOON.’ Cecil is a savant and Darwinian, to boot. (You are probably thinking, “What? No way.” Come on, would I make this up?) In the final week before their real baby is due, Peter suggests they need to clear their apartment of the make-believe children. The trio decide to “kill them off.” They supposedly accomplish their deed, but, of course, to make the plot thicker, when the real baby shows up, the pretend kids return. So, baby does make 7!

The script has been called, “funny, allusive and edgy." At times, the audience gets off tracked as Vogel throws in lines from ‘TEA AND SYMPATHY,’ Shakespeare and snippets from lots of pop songs that may well be beyond the reach of the youngish audiences we tend to show up for convergence productions. As we watch, there is a tendency to play amateur psychologist and figure out whether the fantasy children are really flashbacks to personal histories of the women.

The convergence production is quite good. Denise Astorino, who is quickly establishing herself as a local superstar, is excellent. Not only does she make her human character real, but her dog-like feral child and French speaking Red Balloon kid are right-on.

Jovana Batkovic is equally fine as the real Anna, and the fantasy Cecil, she of child actions but adult wisdom. Her pregnancy out-of-control hormones scene is hysterical.

Only Geoffrey Hoffman falters slightly. Hoffman is one of my favorite local actors. He has good character-centered instincts and is usually on target. Therefore, I cannot understand why either he, or director Simon, decided that he needed to be fay, sound affected and feigned an over-extended “gay” presence. His saving grace? His giving the baby a bath scene is priceless. Oh, and for those who have become accustomed to seeing Hoffman showing off his gym-toned body on the convergence stage, yes, fear not, Simon makes sure that he does scenes with his shirt off.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: So, what’s the verdict? I guess Simon’s onslaught of off kilter plays has finally gotten to me. I surrender, I found myself interested, even absorbed. As for you, the bottom line is, either you want to play Vogel's fantasy game, or you don't. If the answer is, “yes” then go, think, and be weirded-out.