The Weird Sisters: The Electric Baby

I have no idea why I decided to change all of my plans for Friday in the middle of the week to see the Weird Sisters’ production of Stefanie Zadravec’s The Electric Baby, but I’m glad that I did. It was one of the better plays that I’ve ever seen in Atlanta, both in terms of the script and the quality of the presentation. A comedic drama, it made me laugh, cry, and taught me how to use a pair of socks soaked in whiskey to keep me from coughing during a show: what more could I ask from theater?

I think that Zadravec’s script itself would hold its own with a pretty mediocre production, but the director, Idi Owolabi, delivered a very well realized production. Both the direction and stagecraft were very good. It was staged in 7 Stages black-box theater, with a simple set consisting of a small apartment living room lofted in the right corner, a simple wooden bar with some stools to the left, and, as appropriate to the scene, a hospital bed or chairs center stage. The apartment had a baby, that we couldn’t see, in a white bassinet with white string lights streaming out and forming constellations resembling fanned wings along the back wall and coming down from the loft. Two steel electrical conduits were visibly fed into the foot of the bassinet.

The play was often very funny and the humor was well timed and came across fairly naturally, though the laughs never obscured the fact that there was a serious drama occurring underneath it all. The story is about how the death of a young man affects the lives of five other people: two couples and his coworker/friend. The play explores the various ways that they react to loss. The coworker/friend, Rozie, is a bit of a rude spaz with a bad attitude who sees her late friend everywhere. One of the two couples are in late middle age and lost their daughter years ago. Helen, the wife, caused the accident that lead to the death of the young man. The other is an immigrant couple. Ambimbola from Nigeria, was driving the cab in which the young man died and who is always optimistic and cheerful. He is married to Natalia, a Romanian woman who seems very concerned with warding off the evil eye. They both seemed to approach the world through story-telling. Show spoiler

They are preparing to lose their baby, though that is not obvious unless you understand the first line of the play in which you hear the mother say in Romanian that her child has gone bad like the heel of her shoe. (My tiny bit of Romanian was only good enough to know that she was saying something about her baby but I found a preview of the first page of the script and was able to translate it.)

The performances were all very strong. I was particularly impressed with Caitlin Hargraves as Natalia, who did a fairly good job putting on a Romanian accent and speaking the lines that were in Romanian. The last time that I saw a play with Romanian characters was Citizens Market at Horizon Theatre, where the two actors put on a stereotypical cold-war era television Eastern European accent and pronounced everything like they were native speakers of a Slavic language rather than Romanian. I was disappointed that one of them was nominated for a Suzi Bass award for that role: all she did was make an obnoxious fuss and then die as a horribly informed caricature of someone from another culture that she couldn’t be bothered to spend two hours learning enough about to even pronounce the country name correctly.

Like I said, I have no idea why I pushed things around to make time for this play, but I’m very glad that I did. I can think of nothing but positive things to say about the production and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future productions from the Weird Sisters or Owolabi.

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