Culture & Conversation

A Most Difficult Birth

Before the opening performance of Be My Baby, the artistic director of Persephone Theater reminded the audience that this was a very special theatre company dedicated to giving emerging young professionals work opportunities. Gabrielle Soskind is a lovely person and her mandate is very important to a community long beleaguered by a dearth of opportunities. This was not a play that fulfilled the vision of this mandate.

Amanda Whittington’s Be My Baby is about four young woman in the early sixties who are living in a religious home for pregnant unmarried girls, and are forced to give up their babies for adoptions. This is an important story, for the generation who do not remember the meaning of back street abortions. It is a reminder to those of us who organized marches and protested until the oppressive laws were humanized.

The four young girls in the play were not given a chance to bring us the emotional torment that such as they experienced. Besides the shrill delivery of the dialogue, there was a constant leitmotif of bubble gum pop songs from the era that was sugary enough to threaten the listener with diabetes.

The inane lyrics were supposed to be juxtaposed to the horror of the experience, but unfortunately they just underlined the really weak dialogue. The play was suffering from an identity crisis. The performers spoke in Canadian English, but the syntax and vocabulary like “bloke” “lass” and “nappies” were British.

The pace was really slow, and the emotional moments, like the birthing of a baby in an attic room, were so underplayed, that they had the drama and impact of a bad cold. I have seen Nadia Verrucci perform magnificently and she did her best as the mother of one of the girls, but she seemed to be working against impossible odds. She was very nervous, and her husband had been in Burma and he had to be lied to about his daughter’s condition. This is an interesting set up, but there is never any delivery.

When Aimee Rose Ambroziak, as Queenie, is told by Stevie Pemberton playing Mary that she can’t sing, she barely reacts. She has supposedly built her hopes on becoming a pop singer to escape the suffocating life she will return to after her birthing. Amanda Margelony had a few dramatic moments as Norma, only to be used as a plot devise to send Jessica Grant as Dolores to the sick room.

The play did not really come across as a professional performance. The penultimate scene was too pristine to be believable, and the performers did not deliver the characters in a memorable fashion.

I do wish Persephone Theatre would produce better plays, preferably ones which speak to what is happening here today and to us.

Be My Baby plays through November 14 at Studio Hydro Quebec at the Monument National (St. Laurent near the corner of René Lévesque). Box Office: 514 871 2224. For more information check the Persephone Productions site.

  • 10 Responses to “A Most Difficult Birth”

    1. Elise Moser

      Wow, I love this review. What a relief to read a review that says what I suspect I would have been thinking on my way out the theatre door. And now the company can address the weaknesses of the play. That’s a gift to them.

    2. Evan Harkai

      I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m sorry if you’re going to write a review you should at least spend the time to organize and gather your facts. You didn’t even get the actors names right, it’s Jenessa Grant, not Jessica. So for one that leads me to believe you didn’t bother getting a copy of the program.
      Also I think you’re undermining Norma’s freakout by classifying it as a plot device because I feel like it’s more than that. It’s a genuine experience that, yes brings Dolores out of the room, but that’s a friend helping one in need. Dolores incites the action, which is then first declined by Matron, who gives in. This is obviously not something to be taken lightly.
      “Gabrielle Soskind is a lovely person and her mandate is very important to a community long beleaguered by a dearth of opportunities. This was not a play that fulfilled the vision of this mandate.”
      “I do wish Persephone Theatre would produce better plays, preferably ones which speak to what is happening here today and to us.”
      I’m sorry that you don’t feel this show meets the mandate of Persephone, but I have to disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, felt its impact and find that it’s well worth the title of a Persephone Performance. I believe it is a large undertaking and is very pertinent to people today. Theatre isn’t about impacting your day to day life and pushing limits of issues of today. I think this show brings you to a place most youth of today aren’t aware of. It deals with many issues and covers most of them extremely well. As someone living in the here and today this show did speak to me.
      The accents were a choice made by the company and to be honest after 5 minutes into the show I completely forgot about the lingo difference.
      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the show, but to others reading this like Elise above don’t base your judgement and say you’re glad this review said what you were thinking if you didn’t see the show. Go see it then make that claim. I think it’s a show worth seeing.
      Thanks you.

    3. suzan

      This is a rather nasty-toned review. While some of the criticisms may be valid, it is poorly organized (and a critic should know how to spell the word ‘device’).

      “I do wish Persephone Theatre would produce better plays, preferably ones which speak to what is happening here today and to us.”

      I do wish this could be a better review, one that would speak to us and not blast a theatre company for doing the plays they choose to perform.

      And I haven’t seen the play, nor am I involved in the company. I’m just rather surprised by some of the nasty reviews I’ve seen on this website since its inception, and I don’t think they serve any constructive purpose.

    4. Addison Steele

      And I find that people who criticize a review of a play they themselves haven’t seen should perhaps go and see the play first before making their comments. Also, if the person would bother to go through the reviews that have appeared on this website, they might notice that the overwhelming majority of them are from positive to very positive. On the other hand, if the person wants the reviewer to praise something when the reviewer feels there is a problem with it, maybe they should just read the PR material on the theatre’s site instead.

    5. suzan

      There is simply something wrong with a website that features a harsh review, a review which is then in turn praised in the comments/response section by the website’s own literary editor. This also does not seem professional. It is really strange to have this site’s literary editor praise a review by a writer for their website, and declare said review “is a gift to them”, meaning, the company that has been so harshly critiqued. This is condescending and seems to add to the harshness of the review by showing that this opinion is presumably shared by the website/Rover staff, and is not simply the opinion of the critic who should have a voice that is independent of the publication. It would be like David Remnick leaving comments of praise on the New Yorker’s online comments/section for Anthony Lane when he decides to diss a movie (“Way to go! If I were that director, I’d really appreciate that critique! What a gift! Go get ‘em”!)

      I am simply a reader who uses this site to look for goings on about town and have found that some reviews on this site have been gratuitously harsh but not constructive.

    6. Addison Steele

      Now you are no longer complaining about the actual review but about the fact that another member of the site (clearly identified) agreed with the review. However, if you had checked previous comments, there have been submissions from one member of the Rover crew criticizing another for a particular review.

      Using this site as a way to find out about the goings on about town is to be lauded but the site also has an obligation to voice an opinion on those goings on. As pointed out before, the overwhelming majority of reviews on this site are positive (too many of them, in my opinion). If I went a cheerleading section, I’ll watch the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. I, for one, want to know whether something is worth seeing or not. And I think that the writers on this site are very careful about offering negative reviews. That leads me to believe that, even in the review that you find so offensive, the writer was holding back.

    7. Elise Moser

      As literary editor, I have absolutely nothing to do with reviews published in any other section of Rover, and don’t even know most of the writers (although I do know Anna). I am, however, interested in other art forms, and therefore, like anyone, read Rover reviews of music, theatre, film, dance, etc. Like any other reader, I occasionally express an opinion about them. Furthermore, I am a writer and have had experience in the theatre, and as an artist I disagree with the idea that it is condescending to say that intelligent, informed and honest criticism is a gift to the artist. If you are not ready to hear what people think of your work, you’re not ready to share it with the public.

    8. Gabrielle Soskin

      Umm no plays that speak to us and our concerns ??? .Check out the Persephone website
      I consider this review very destructive and unhelpful .Every Theatre company has to take risks try different things Persephone has brought agreat deal of interest over the years
      I am not lovely but i am brave and generous to give my and my energy and raise towards helping emerging artist in this community

    9. Anna Fuerstenberg

      I agree that you are a brave and courageous person and have kept a theatre company goind in this community through horribly difficult times.
      I just do not agree that the choice of play or the style of the direction
      worked the night I was there.

      Our generation marched for freedom of choice for women and paid wiith blood and sometimes more, for the horrible way pregnant women were forced to have their babies in the not so distant past. Many of us are still searching for babies given to adoption, and others were made barren by horrible back alley butchers.

      I do believe it is important to educate new generations about the consequences of unprotected sexual behaviour, but the play remains public entertainment that either works as theatre or doesn’t and then it is a questio of de g ustibus non es disputandem.

      Most of the reviews for Be My Baby were good, and I simply do not agree. It is always much more difficult to give a negative review and especially at four A.M., but I stand on my own decades of work as a playwright directer and performer, to say that sometimes it is the job of a critic to criticize.

    10. Dave Schurman

      Although the run for this play has ended, I could not help responding.

      This reviewer was obviously having a very bad day when she attended this excellent performance of Be My Baby. I personally know about 30 people who saw it and none of them had this kind of mean-spirited view of the work. While I don’t think this is a GREAT play, it clearly does have meaning for today and has given these ladies an opportunity to show their stuff. They were wonderful, lively and worked very well as a team. Their reactions and responses to the music helped make for a superior production.

      “Shrill dialogue?” What shrill dialogue?

      “Better plays”? I guess Ms. Fuerstenberg missed the great “Cherry Docs” and the superior production of “Othello” last year. Both of these plays “speak to what is happening here today and to us”. In fact, these are the ONLY kinds of plays that Ms. Soskin is interested in and has put on for over 8 years. Too bad Ms. Fuerstenberg did no research before “writing” this nasty review.


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