“A Nursery Without the Usual Rhyme” — The Baby
The Baby, adapted for the stage by The Visceral Company, is a paean to the 1970s cult classic film, which dares to strain all limits of credulity. Dan Spurgeon, artistic director, chose the perfect name for this theatre company. “Visceral,” as opposed to cerebral, implies a more feeling-oriented, almost animalistic approach to theater as an art form. The catchy, upbeat ‘70s music playing in the background sets the tone for this staged, satiric production of the 1973 film, a demented, often campy, psychological thriller, with elements of macabre horror and an extreme twist ending.
It plays almost in John Waters (Hairspray) style, with single “Mama Wadsworth,” played in drag by Frank Blocker; and “Baby,” stuck in a 21-year-old male body, played by Torrey Halverson. The show, in extreme Ionescan or Theatre of the Absurd form, attempts to portray a highly dysfunctional family, where society is topsy-turvy, and nothing is truly what it seems. Maison Leigh and Natasha Charles Parker play the evil big sisters, ala a twisted Cinderella, the Greek chorus, as it were, always stepping in at the mention of any clamor or travesty.
Along comes the social worker Ann Gentry (Jana Wimer), who seemingly wants to “right the ship,” yet truly has a mysterious agenda of her own. In the end, chaos reigns supreme.
Samm Hill delivers a standout performance, providing a great caricature of the doctor. The disco dance party scene, complete with ‘70s afro hair styles and authentic period wardrobe, brings the era to life onstage.
Although the play captured the decade and gave a literal translation of the cult film, it could have taken a far more outrageous, over-the-top approach, with slapstick, parody, and commedia dell’arte form taken even further.
The Baby runs through Aug. 31 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at Lex Theatre located at 6760 Lexington Ave. in Hollywood. For tickets, visit thevisceralcompany.com.