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.