Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Call
TheaterWorks
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Presto Change-O


Mary Bacon and Todd Gearhart
Photo by Lanny Nagler
The Call, continuing at TheaterWorks in Hartford through June 19th, is a struggle. Written by Tanya Barfield, the main storyline finds thirty-somethings Peter (Todd Gearhart) and Annie (Mary Bacon) desperate to adopt a child, preferably a baby. Topically relevant, the current production's import is significant yet the show does not fully satisfy.

Annie and Peter have exhausted themselves trying to conceive. Now, they are excited to seemingly anticipate an infant who will become theirs to love and nurture. The play opens in their home as friends Drea (Maechi Aharanwa) and Rebecca (Jasmin Walker) go on and on about a recent safari trip they took in Africa. It seems that Drea, an African-American woman, was thought of as too lightly complected—and so forth. Annie reveals, after a while, that the woman now pregnant with the child she and Peter hope to have, is not one hundred percent certain that she will give up the baby. Another and possibly more constructive idea: perhaps a baby from Africa might be available.

Peter, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, was, while there, friends with Rebecca's brother David. The primary focus of The Call is on the couple who wish to adopt, and especially Annie. Drea and Rebecca reappear with commentary and even some occasional comic relief. During the second act a new neighbor, Alemu (Michael Rogers), offers through ultra-deliberate words a story to Annie about the adoption becoming a reality. Alemu's monologue is of import but far too lengthy. He brings articles such as shoes and soccer balls. One feels the mounting tension within Annie, and actress Mary Bacon is adept in her portrayal of a woman whose life is filled with overwhelming stress.

She receives a call informing her that a child is found. Photographs, however, persuade that the baby is not really the 2-plus years of age that the agency described. The child might be 4. Annie's inner turmoil amplifies further as she grapples with the notion of having a child who knows other parents.

Luke Hegel-Cantarella's set design moves from a fairly swanky city living area to more abstract settings. Jenn Thompson, directing this piece, which lasts 90 minutes including intermission, centers upon the pivotal dilemma, the implications, the personal toll which tortures Annie. Playwright Barfield tosses in much more. At times, the additional plotting distracts, but it also could be construed as a means to lighten an otherwise dark, difficult, and most painful predicament.

The play is a contemporary one and its focal issue undeniably pertinent. Bacon, as Annie, draws in observers because she wears the severity of her anxiety on her face. The prospect of adoption, once thought to be favorable, might soon devastate her. She is lost and Peter is unable to soothe her. Director Thompson moves the play at a moderate rate, but Alemu's halting delivery does the production no favors. The characters' dialogue is clipped and this is, assuredly, intentional.

The Call premiered in New York four few years ago and there is no doubt that the author has much to explicate. Annie is facing what are, for her, nearly impossible choices. The theme is unquestionably valuable. Barfield's play and this production come up short.

The Call continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut through June 19th, 2016. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit theaterworkshartford.com.


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