February 19, 2004

Please, Baby, Please

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Ah, sexual education — the forum wherein I learned the triumphs of clitoral stimulation and the tragedies of premature ejaculation. Somewhere, hidden amongst the boner and douche jokes, was a lesson about a little flagellum who undertook a perilous odyssey to meet his mate.

“It’s a rather romantic story,” notes a sex-ed teacher, standing above her class in the opening moments of Baby, the latest musical to open at the Schwartz Center. With a rather non-abstract title, Baby is a musical about, well, babies. But here, the babies exist only in the thoughts, fears, insecurities, and hopes of its characters.

Almost immediately, we are introduced to three couples spanning the spectrum of child-bearing ages. Liz and Danny (Amy Elizabeth Bravo and Reed Van Dyk) are college juniors whose attempt at contraception has failed them. Nick and Pam (Travis Atkinson and Anne Beggs), in their late twenties, are life-long athletes who have been trying to have a child for quite some time. And Arlene and Alan (Sarah Chalmers and Marc Moritz of the Actors’ Equity Association), a middle-aged couple reveling in their newfound freedom after their youngest child graduates from college. Yet a drunken night of lust (“Apparently we did more than just pass out”) has foiled their thoughts of dining out and theater going.

Temporally compressing the turmoil of nine months into two and a half hours, Baby inundates its audience with a plethora of issues and plot twists, examining our culture’s treatment of pregnancy from all conceivable angles. Danny, embodying a more traditional view, feels he must be the breadwinner, and can’t understand why Liz would reject his notion that they marry. Pam and Nick cannot conceive because, much to their surprise, Nick has been “shooting duds,” as their doctor puts it. Arlene and Alan must come to terms with whether they are truly ready and willing to devote themselves to another child.

Although their stories lie at the heart of the musical, the women aren’t the only ones given musical numbers. All of the males extol their feelings, with Danny wrestling with his true feelings for Liz, and Nick confronting the blow to his manhood that this revelation has caused him. Periphery characters are used for comic relief, such as a flamboyantly snide real estate agent, a group of pandering, aged mothers, and Arlene and doctor, who makes a ridiculous analogy between sperm and jellybeans.

Baby, written by Sybille Pearson, originally appeared on Broadway in 1983 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including best musical and best score. Now coming back to Broadway, this production, put on by Guest Director Lisa Leguillou, marks the first time the new and revised version will be seen anywhere. Leguillou comes to Cornell with a decorated resum