`Baby' strikes universal chord

THEATER

February 24, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire's 1983 musical Baby is designed to appeal to anyone who's about to be a parent, has ever been a parent or just hopes to be a parent. In other words, it's got broad appeal.

At Dundalk Community Theatre, that appeal is enhanced by a strong contingent of lead performers, who portray three couples at different stages in life - the central gimmick in Sybille Pearson's clever script.

Lauren Spencer-Harris and Brent Bell play unmarried college students surprised to discover they're going to be parents. Shannon Wollman and John O'Brien play a couple battling infertility and afraid of never becoming parents. And Liz Boyer Hunnicutt and Michael Quinn play the middle-aged parents of three grown children whose unexpected fourth pregnancy leaves them afraid they'll only be parents and never just a couple.

Each pair has chemistry, and with the occasional exception of O'Brien, all are fine vocalists, doing ample justice to Maltby and Shire's tuneful, varied score. And, though John Desmone's direction relies too heavily on sideways motion (a double bed slides across the stage to serve as the bedroom of each couple), he comes up with several amusingly staged numbers.

"Fatherhood Blues," for example, is sung by the male performers on the ball field, using baseball bats as pretend guitars. And Spencer-Harris leads the female ensemble in the comical country-Western-flavored "Ladies Singing Their Song," in which every woman who sees her not only wants to touch her belly, but can't refrain from sharing horror stories about labor.

There are poignant numbers as well, particularly the touching solo "Patterns," hauntingly sung by Hunnicutt.

Helping ensure that Baby's delivery goes smoothly, music director R. Christopher Rose has assembled a 10-member, on-stage orchestra that is one of the slickest bands to accompany a community theater production in some time.

Baby may not offer new insights about parenthood, but with the help of its talented leads and Rose's accomplished instrumentalists, it strikes a chord that's as melodious as it is universal.

Showtimes at Dundalk Community Theatre, on the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk campus, 7200 Sollers Point Road, are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20. Call 410-285-9667.

One-man show

I Am My Own Wife, Doug Wright's 2004 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning one-man show starring veteran Center Stage actor Jefferson Mays, will make its area debut at Washington's National Theatre March 29-April 10.

Mays plays the real-life character of a German transvestite antiques collector who survived the Nazi and Communist regimes while wearing a black dress, sensible shoes and pearls and calling himself Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

Mays, who also portrays more than 30 other characters in I Am My Own Wife, has appeared in eight shows at Center Stage. His most recent role was that of the title character in the 2002 production of Peter Pan.

Tickets to I Am My Own Wife at the National, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, range from $36.25-$71.25 and go on sale tomorrow. Call 800-446-7400.

Md. playwright

Maryland native Kia Corthron's Moot the Messenger is one of six full-length plays in this year's Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Focusing on a journalism student who becomes an embedded reporter in Iraq, the play is directed by Center Stage associate artist Marion McClinton, who staged Corthron's Splash Hatch on the E Going Down at Center Stage in 1997. Another Corthron play, Slide Glide the Slippery Slope, was produced during the 2003 Humana Festival.

Moot the Messenger will be performed March 12-April 3. For more information, call 800-4-ATL-TIX or visit www. actorstheatre.org.

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