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|A CurtainUp Review
By Amanda Cooper
There are currently a slew of shows about overweight women -- one musical (Hairspray), one play (this one!), and one soon-to-arrive TV movie (Beautiful Girl). But it is Baby Steps that leaves the feel-good humor behind as it explores the hard knock life of the main character, Baby. Actually, her given name is Sarah. Baby is her nickname.
That nickname is representative of many aspects of Baby/Sarah's life. It originated from a painful place -- teasing at a younger age, as "babyfat" stuck and was then shortened. Baby, ten years out of high school works as an aide in a nursing home and, is the parent figure for her highly intelligent brother, a twelfth grader. We learn that their father has died, and their drunk mother ran off and the grandmother she was close to has also died.
As the play begins the characters forcefully zoom on stage, full of determination and energy. Often, the tiny stage is unable to contain this show, giving the feeling of too many mice in a small cage -- even the stage squeaks in sympathy.
Jennifer Darling plays Baby with a highly defensive armor, yet emotional center. Ori Behr plays her brother Shawn, a believably awkward adolescent, his supposed high intelligence hidden. Baby's friends played by Karen Stanion and Chris Thorn are endearing as the high school sweethearts whose immaturity often leaves Baby fixing their problems. Andrea Leigh portrays Baby's long lost mother with appropriately delicate desperation. Aaron Roman Weiner is the refreshingly honest Carl, who guides Baby into the next step of her life, this time under the auspices of her given name, Sarah.
Baby is someone who puts herself aside, and assumes the role of caretaker for everyone: her brother, her friends, her mother, and even those she works for. But as Sarah, she is someone who is learning to add her own needs into the picture. Sarah and Carl have (not exactly) equal, yet opposite personal problems -- allowing their budding romance a springboard.
Dave Travis' directing guides the group easily through the high energy and conflict filled moments. Though the play is not without some corny lines and kinks in final plot twists, I found myself caring about and believing in many of its characters.
James Carter wrote this play specifically for Darling, a close friend and colleague. His affection and care comes through as we see Baby/Sarah as a complete person but he does sometimes leave the supporting characters with a lack of personal depth.
Though specific in story, this play becomes universal. After all, we all have ways in which we must take baby steps in order to grow.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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