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Theater Fri May 31 2013

Smudge: Ka-Tet Theatre Dramatizes Parents' Nightmare

It's a prospective parent's worst nightmare: Will our baby be perfect? A missing finger or toe and many congenital diseases can be adapted to or treated, but in Smudge, Ka-Tet Theatre asks us to think about how we would deal with an even more dramatic birth--an infant that may not be quite human.

"This thing doesn't need a mother," Colby (Stevie Chadwick Lambert) says midway through this one-act, 90-minute play. "It's got tubes."


Stevie Chadwick Lambert and Scott Allen Luke; photo by Andrew Cioffi.

Smudge by Rachel Axler takes us from the late-in-pregnancy moment when Colby and Nick (Scott Allen Luke) try to decipher the ultrasound of their future progeny. "Is it upside down?" Colby asks, rotating the image. In the next scene, the baby is born and whisked away to the ICU to be cared for. Colby and Nick bring the baby home and choose the name "Cassandra" (a Trojan princess with the gift of prophecy). "Cassie" is placed in a bassinet covered in tubing, with a constantly beeping monitor. Colby refers to the infant as "it" but all we know for sure about the child is that it has one eye and is missing some limbs.

There are no baby pictures. No birth announcements. Nick is a loving father and a statistician; i.e., "On or off. Ones and zeroes. Make a decision." He works with his brother Peter (Andrew Marchetti) at a Census Bureau office. Peter demands that Nick "call Mom" and send around some photos to the family. Not until Peter arrives at their home unannounced with a camera does he understand why.

At home, Colby is depressed and frustrated and at first refuses to pay attention to the baby. Nick tries to get responses from the child with a giant stuffed carrot. Then, when the monitor's beeps change and the tubing dramatically lights up, Colby discovers that the infant somehow responds to her dances with the stuffed creature she calls "Mr. Limbs."

Director Alison Shoemaker directs this odd play with care. It has humorous moments, but it is a difficult, unsentimental story. Colby mourns: "Babies are helpless little spit-up and crap machines but you recognize something of yourself in them. That's why you want to feed and take care of them until they get old enough to be interesting."

The three actors handle their roles effectively but Lambert is especially good as a mother torn apart with conflicting emotions. The play asks more questions than it answers but ultimately makes you hope that parental affection will win out. This four-year-old company has an interesting past with productions by Bertolt Brecht (In the Jungle of Cities) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Fuddy Meers). It seems to have a promising future.


Smudge is being performed through June 23 at the Athenaeum Theatre's Studio One, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm. Tickets are $25 with some discounted tickets at $15; they can be purchased online. For more information, call the box office at 773-935-6875.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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