B For Baby@ The Peacock Theatre
October 20, 2010
People’s enjoyment of Carmel Winters’ B for Baby which runs at the Peacock till November 5th will depend on what demands they place on their theatre. Some will see it as a missed opportunity, a chance to properly explore the sexual rights of the intellectually disabled passed up too lightly. And they will be right, for there can be no doubting that here it is used here solely as a plot device. Others will applaud the Abbey for their bravery in staging such a dark, noncommercial piece of theatre that deals with such heady adult themes( the reproductively challenged and the way society views childless couples). While most will applaud the strong playing from Michelle Moran and Louis Lovett, Sabine Dagent’s nurseyesque set and Mikel Murfi’s subtle direction. I myself consider it to be an imperfect piece of theatre that engaged me, concerned me and humored me.
B(Lovett) and D(Moran) reside in a care home for adults with intellectual disabilities, B’s caused by how late in life his mother had him, D’s due to an attempt on her life by her brother when they were both toddlers(either that or by a pig that attacked her. We can’t be sure). Their childlike flirtations and assertions about sex pepper their conversations and as B acts out(or is that reenacts) his desires to comb real hair(like his mother let him) D messes with his head, telling him his mother is still alive and off living a happy life without him.
Enter this equation Mrs C(also played by Moran), the weekend house-mother who D enviously considers a rival for B’s affections. She’s never had more than a fuck me shoe from Tyler’s to care about and her eggs keep stubbing out her husband Brian’s(Lovett) sperm. Brian has had it with IVF and his attempts to sway his wife from a natural birth has curdled their relationship. In B Mrs C finds an honesty and a hope that no longer exist in her world with her husband and, with babies on the brain, her own sense of what’s right and what’s wrong becomes fiercely blurred leading to an act of thoughtless cruelty, the length to which she manipulates B slowly being unwound to a horrified audience- Winters preferring short, sharp slaps over one sucker punch.
The dialogue is direct, undiluted and delivered with devastating clarity. The martial woes are laced with a withering bitterness that reminded me of Patrick Marber and D’s cosmetic cruelty masks an honesty and consideration beyond her able minded adversary. We flinch at the innocent insults B bumbles out, harsh truths concealed in unselfconscious ramblings while the ghosts of Mrs C’s lingering hopes haunt her every conversation.
The production is by an large an involving one. Given how harsh and caustic D could be Moran could have tried to made her Mrs B a little softer while the pace and bite of the whole piece is inhibited by the actors doubling as stage hands, coming out of character to tuck the props away. And the language and themes explored make up for a plot with too many loose threads and incomplete ideas.
But as a piece of entertainment-and especially when you consider it is Winter’s first full length play- there is much to be exited about here.