by Leta Tremblay · August 14, 2014
Families are complicated.
We all have our own histories and wounds inflicted by our family. If we’re lucky, we also feel love and appreciation for the beautifully flawed characters that make up our family. And if we’re really lucky, we can recognize that our family is comprised not only of the people who birthed and raised us but also of the people who join us along the way for life’s roller-coaster ride.
Kim Ehly’s Baby GirL leads Ashley (Christa Meyers) to discover this very truth on her journey to find her family and where she fits within its complex web. Presented with heightened first-person narrative, Meyers deftly navigates the, often rocky, terrain of this true story under the clear direction of playwright and producer Ehly. In a nutshell, Ashley is adopted. And she’s gay. Over the course of the play, she shares with the audience her childhood within the family that raised her, the confusion and ultimately joyous acceptance of her sexuality, and finally, a search for her birth parents.
The story is grounded in the very real and complex relationships of parents to their children while at the same time highlighting dramatic moments with the absurdity with which we often remember them. For example, coming out to ones parents can often be an ordeal, sometimes of comic proportions in retrospect. Ehly utilizes these theatrical tools to great effect in her script.
As director, Ehly does a great job of keeping the pace up and the story moving (there is a lot of ground to cover) with the help of the excellent ensemble that she has gathered. The cast of eight represents 29 different characters in total and everyone plays double duty with the exception of Meyers at the center of it all.
While there are strong character performances across the board, I particularly enjoyed Jessica Farr’s interpretations of multiple and diverse roles which she portrayed with ease and specificity. Special accolades should also be given to Amy Bizjak as both Ashley’s adoptive and birth mothers. The lives and personalities of these two women could not be more different and yet both face their own inner demons that prevent them from being the parent that Ashley hopes for. Bizjak is unrecognizable when she returns the to stage in Act II playing a deeply unsatisfied and troubled woman with compassion and fullness.
Kutumba Theatre Project, the producing company, is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Baby GirL originally premiered and where the main action of the play unfolds. While the piece translates well to a New York audience, I can’t help but imagine that the cultural references on home turf are thrilling. Like Ashley, Kutumba is clearly growing, expanding its reach, and drawing more members into its own collective, and I’m sure, complicated family.
As Ehly notes in the program, “family is not only the ones that we are given, but also the friends and mentors we gather along the journey of life. These people comprise our chosen families.”