|« The TBS Just for Laughs Festival: "The Lil Rel Show"||Art for The People: AFRICOBRA »|
Theater Wed Jun 19 2013
If you have been or have known a new mother, you remember how hormonal craziness can rage in the days immediately after birth. So no one takes Mari (Hillary Clemens) seriously when she wakes up the morning after an at-home childbirth and says, "That is not our baby!"
Mari keeps the blanket that wrapped the new baby and sniffs it frequently for the 'new baby smell'--she's sure the baby in the cradle smells different.
Hillary Clemens & Cyd Blakewell; photo by Claire Demos.
The title Mine takes on ominous overtones and great intensity under Marti Lyons' direction, which is enhanced by its confined performance space in this tiny storefront venue. Playwright Laura Marks has drawn several realistic and sympathetic characters, consumed with contemporary fears, ratcheted up by the angst of new parenthood.
Mari and her husband Peter (Gabriel Franken) have done everything right in preparing for their new daughter. Mari has taken her prenatal vitamins. The apartment is free of lead paint. A skilled and empathetic midwife (Alexandra Main) has guided them through the play's opening scene, where Mari is going through labor in an inflated birthing pool. After 18 hours of labor, Peter tries to get Mari to sleep. That's when she looks at the baby in the cradle and declares it's not the one she just gave birth to.
Mari's mother, Rina (Deborah Ann Smith), arrives and provides sympathy and reassurance. She remembers post-birth anxieties when Mari was born. "Babies could get mixed up in a hospital birth," she says, but that could hardly happen at home. Mari is unconvinced, swaddles the baby in a sling and goes out to sit in the park near their home--there, she meets Amy (Cyd Blakewell), an attractive and lively young woman who is interested in the new baby.
Nothing goes well. Peter realizes the ancient fears of a new father: "After I saw my baby, I got the whole f---ing world to be afraid of." Mari can't get the baby to nurse. The baby loses weight, but the midwife finds nothing wrong. Both Peter and Rina are supportive and encouraging but Mari continues to be unnerved and fears the baby will die.
Out for a walk on another day, Mari meets Amy again and the play veers off into fantasy and folklore. "I'm the mother of your child," Amy tells her, becoming more assertive and dramatic. "I'm from another world. We came into your room and switched babies." (Is the baby a changeling?) Mari demands, "How can I get my baby back?"
Amy tells her, but we've given enough spoilers already so we won't describe the remedy.
At the end of this haunting 80-minute play, Mari is devastated because the birth blanket has lost its "new baby" scent. Amy appears in the hospital where Mari and the baby are staying and tells her "Someday, I don't know when, or if ever, I will bring her back to you."
When your baby is a changeling, that's the best you can expect.
Mine runs through August 11 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., with performances at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30pm Sundays. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-283-7071.