Chicago Theatre Review
Who’s Your Mama?
Several cultures subscribe to a mythological belief that fairies or trolls may replace a human baby for one of their own, if the parents aren’t vigilant. The reason behind the exchange is sometimes social, with the supernatural parents merely searching for a better way of life for their young. But more often than not the fairy mother is desperately attempting to save her child’s life with the nutrients found in a human mother’s milk. This may or may not be the case in Laura Marks’ terrifying new psychological drama premiering in Chicago.
As the play begins, Mari is heard panting and screaming in the darkness. The lights come up revealing the mother-to-be squatting in an inflatable birthing pool, surrounded by Peter, her husband, her mother Rina and Joan, her midwife. The baby is born, wrapped in a tiny blanket and in the next scene Mari is resting in her own bed, while Peter cradles his new daughter in his arms. He and Mari discuss the pros and cons of allowing their baby sleep between them in their bed, but decide it would be best for everyone if the baby slept in her bassinet next to them. When Mari wakes up a few hours later she is still holding and sniffing the blanket used in her baby’s delivery. However, when she finally holds and smells her daughter, she announces with certainty, “This isn’t my baby.” And so begins the mystery.
Mari tries to explain her feelings to Peter, her midwife and her mother, but only the stranger sitting next to her on a park bench seems to understand. Introduced as Amy, she acts strangely and aggressive, confirming Mari’s suspicions that her baby is, indeed, not her own. Amy explains that she is a changeling and tells Mari what she must do to reclaim her own daughter. It all sounds fantastic, horrifying and yet somehow, possibly true. Now Mari is left to decide which path she will take.
Ms. Marks has described her play as “creepy,” which it is, most assuredly. As the story unfolds it feels much like Ira Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” There are moments of horror balanced by scenes of joy. When the audience buys into the bizarre circumstances it plays like a science fiction or supernatural tale; at other times the audience wonders if this isn’t merely a series of hallucinations resulting from Mari’s sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, ingestion of various medications and postpartum depression. By the play’s sudden, startling climax the audience is no longer certain.
The talented five-member ensemble all bring honesty to their roles, thanks to Marti Lyons’ superb direction. The natural, conversational quality of the production makes the characters seem like old friends, which only serves to further point up the horror. Abetted by an original score and sound design by Christopher Kriz and Stephen Carmody’s stylish, economically flexible set, this is a must-see for audiences looking for an unusual and engrossing evening of theatre.
Additional information concerning this and other area productions is available atwww.theatreinchicago.com.