|Matt Clarke, Gerald Thomson, and Christian Boden|
photo courtesy Space 55
A world premiere from the mind of playwright John Perovich, a local playwright involved in various new work development ventures, Space 55's be my little baby presents a dark comedy centered around astral projection, family dysfunction, and a more than mild obsession with cowboys. In a space dedicated to new and innovative work, be my little baby qualifies on both counts. It's a creative concept with interesting characters, and with an audience open to suspending their disbelief, it proves to be a wild ride.
be my little baby centers around Johnny and his imaginary cowboy friend LaRue. After years of being homeschooled by his overprotective mother and watching his older sister, Heather, attend public school, Johnny pushes for the freedom to attend school like everyone else. When Johnny finds out that Heather's new boyfriend Bobby is dangerous, he and LaRue resort to more mystical methods to try and protect those in Bobby's line of fire.
Perovich's script provides plenty of opportunities for over-the-top performances and subtle moments alike, and a few of the actors in this production take full advantage of the dynamics. The play's strengths lie in its dark humor and imagination, though there are moments where a little more explanation could benefit the audience. Ultimately, be my little baby takes the audience on a journey, even if they aren't always sure where they are or where they're going. As long as they're along for the ride, it comes to a more or less satisfying end.
Christian Boden brings a youthful exuberance to main character Johnny, though it's unclear exactly how old Johnny is meant to be. Christian is vibrant and skillful in capturing the innocent naivete of a boy who hasn't seen much past his bedroom window. As the helpful cowboy companion LaRue, Gerald Thomson imbues a rustic warmth to his character that makes him quickly likable and altogether curious to the audience. Marcella Grassa portrays Heather, the quintessential teenage girl, with a relatable vulnerability. She embodies her character from head to toe, every flip of her hair, every lip nibble, every defensive huff and compulsory laugh rings true for anyone who's either been a teenage girl, or at least been around them. Matt Clarke plays Bobby with such ease that his villain shifts from charming to terrifying on a dime. His performance is positively magnetic.
Ilana Lydia's direction makes use of every inch of the stage and the passages through the audience, though there are many moments between characters that could use more attention to bring out the full emotional pull or comedic effect. Lydia evokes some great moments of tension, however, and the overall vision of the play is executed well. Mask makers Dain Q. Gore and Hannah Walsh do beautiful work on the moon masks for the Celestial Voyeur, though the character itself is very abstract and questionable from an audience perspective. Paul Filan's painting provides the clear location of the desert with a setting sun, though the majority of the play takes place indoors. Ashley Naftule's prop design firmly evokes the interior of a home in which hot dogs and baked beans constitute a special family dinner (I find that combination positively delicious, myself) and provides enough versatility that many furniture items make sense in a number of settings. Brady Anderson's lighting excels best during the moments of astral projection, providing a consistent and clear visual to clue the audience in to what plane Johnny happens to be on.
be my little baby is a testament to theatre's ability to take the audience on a journey using their imagination, and this world premiere at Space 55 does exactly that. If you're in the market for something dark, playful, and a little risky, be my little baby might be just what you're looking for.
CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs through June 9