Strong performances deliver sensitive stories.
The Gazette, November 11, 2009
by Pat Donnelly
But this week, it's possible to take in Bent, which features an all-male cast, and Be My Baby, which features an all-female cast.
Both deal with incarceration. And both are strong productions presented by underfunded anglophone theatre companies. But the similarities end there.
While Be My Baby, presented by Persephone Productions, offers social commentary on the plight of unmarried mothers in England in the 1960s, Bent is a far more disturbing work that outlines the horrors undergone by homosexuals sent to Dachau during the Second World War...
Be My Baby, by British playwright Amanda Whittington, is a rarity. The adoption issue is seldom discussed from the point of view of teen birth mothers faced with sudden, life-altering choices. Equally rare is a play about the 1960s that reveals the dark side of the sexual revolution. While everyone in London was swinging, in smaller centres, stories of heartbreak kids giving birth to children they will never be allowed to see again unfolded as usual.
In this play, however, they have the comfort of listening to catchy tunes by the noted girl bands of the era: the Ronettes (who recorded Be My Baby), Dixie Cups and Shangri-Las. Although this isn't a musical, the girls do more than karaoke justice to classics like Going to the Chapel.
Mary Adams (Stevie Pemberton) is a quiet young woman who worked in a bank until she became pregnant. The responsibility falls entirely on her shoulders, and those of her anxious mother (Nadia Verrucci), rather than on her med student boyfriend, who remains an offstage character.
The mother delivers her daughter to the church-run home managed by a stern matron (Sandy Ferguson). There she is to await her birthing time, along with three other pregnant girls - Queenie (Aimee Rose Ambroziak), Norma (Amanda Margelony) and Dolores (Jenessa Grant). Each one has her own sad story. But the resilience of youth is evident. Mary has brought her record collection. And the girls stick together in times of crisis. Ultimately, we see life does go on.
Director Gabrielle Soskin has focused on pitch-perfect performances rather than elaborate staging. A laundry scene divides the set with a sheet. Verrucci is exceptionally good as the torn mother. And Ferguson nails the matron, in her studied benevolence. But it's the girls who win us over, vulnerable yet spirited. Always ready to sing.
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