Although first performed on Broadway in 1983, "Baby" doesn’t seem terribly dated. True, IVF isn’t mentioned by acronym and cellphones are nowhere in sight, but unmarried college students still get pregnant, married couples still try to conceive naturally, and parents with grown children still suddenly find themselves on the path to being parents again. Act3’s production makes these three interlinked stories seem fresh and true.
Sydney Lee’s set design is highly reminiscent of Act3’s "Big Fish," with 11 empty picture frames attached to the back wall. A narrow platform runs against the back wall, with angled stairs on either side of the stage, and an opening in the front center of the platform allows a bed to roll on and off. The design is better than the execution, which seems a bit haphazard. The two sets of stairs are of different riser heights, and both have an unnatural transition from the stair unit to the angled area in front of the back platform. A jury-rigged section of wall is visible stage right, where perhaps the original design called for a curtain to hide the exit from the platform.
Maddie Fay’s lighting is little better. Sections of the stage are lit to highlight action occurring in various spots, but transitions from spot to spot are clunky and lighting isn’t always even when action fills the stage. Props by Mary Sorrel and Dawn Zachariah are fine, as are the costumes designed by Rose Alexander Schweigert, and neither peg the action to a specific historical time. Both suggest a time period in the recent past.
Sophie Harmon’s sound design saddles the actors with head mics, perhaps in an attempt to balance vocals with the six-piece band led by music director John-Michael d’Haviland. Overamplification makes the sound muddy when singers are projecting well, and just about all of them have powerful enough voices to be heard without amplification (as was proved opening night, when one actor’s microphone feed ended partway into her song).
The sub-par quality of the production continues with Alexandria McMath’s choreography. Other than ensemble member Elisabeth Clements, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of dancing talent onstage, so perhaps the basic dance moves are a necessity to accommodate the cast. At least Brandon Deen, as college student Danny, puts some nice comedic spins on many of his dance moves.
Caty Bergmark’s direction incorporates adequate blocking with half-hearted character development. The slapdash feel of the technical side of things suggests that she might have bit off more than she could chew. The uneven, sometimes tentative performances suggest that she has not energized her cast to fulfill their potential.
Performances aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. Kate Metroka is splendid as young wife Pam, and Abi Sneathen truly impresses, particularly in some of her solos as college student Lizzie. Lisa Reich has a fine voice as Arlene, a 43-year-old mother, but doesn’t have an engaging stage presence. The men in their lives don’t have quite as good voices and don’t seem as comfortable in their roles. Mr. Deen is game to attempt a punk rocker persona, and Brian Slayton attempts a charming, wise-cracking persona as Pam’s husband Nick. Chris Davis shows some moments of true emotion as 48-year-old dad Alan. The ensemble doesn’t get a lot to do, with Bradley T. Johnson most notable as a fertility doctor with contact lens problems.
"Baby" is a cute concept, coming across more as a thematic revue than a stereotypical "book" show, with the relationship complications in act two seeming somewhat perfunctory in being resolved. The Maltby-Shire score is pleasant throughout, and is perhaps the best recommendation for seeing the show. "Baby" at Act3 didn’t seem full-term on opening night, but it’s bound to improve as the cast gets more comfortable in their roles and in their stage-setting duties.