Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Call
Theatre Rhinoceros
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Fool for Love, Nikita Burshteyn: Livin' Nikita Loca, and Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín

Alexaendrai Bond, Nkechi Emeruwa, Melissa Keith, Darryl V. Jones, and Hawlan Ng
Photo by David Wilson
Theatre Rhinoceros is presenting the West Coast premiere of Tanya Barfield's The Call through March 12th. Barfield is a writer with a vast vision and in this 100 minute drama she touches on adoption, midlife marriage, homosexuality, AIDS, white guilt, and even U.S.-African relations. Maybe a little too much for one to grasp.

Peter (Hawlan Ng) and Annie (Melissa Keith), a white couple, have tried to have a baby, but they have experienced a series of miscarriages. They tried an unsuccessful round of IVF and so have decided to adopt a baby from Africa. They share the news with two of their best friends, African Americans Rebecca (Nkechi Emeruwa) and her partner and new wife Drea (Alexaendrai Bond), and the news is greeted with great jubilation. The adoption agency has told them that the infant they want is actually 2-½ years old, but in a gritty email picture the child looks closer to 4 years of age. Annie is now having second thoughts about the adoption.

The unexpected detail is throwing Annie for a loss. She visualizes that the baby might be a troubled child. She cannot compete with the memory of the girl's dead mother, so it is unknown what problems the couple will have. There is a lot going on in this play, including a subplot involving a squabble between Rebecca and Peter over the fate of Rebecca's brother who died after an African trip with Peter. That is really incidental to the play's main theme.

There is also an African immigrant neighbor named Alemu who puts Annie on the defensive. He tells Annie, "You want a child from Africa but you do not want Africa." Then, Drea tells Annie, "There are a helluva lot of black kids here. Why's everyone got to go running to Africa?" No wonder Annie is confused, and she is always on the defensive.

Tanya Barfield writes wonderful dialogue and her characters are so well drawn you feel they are actual people you would like to meet. Jon Wai-keung Lowe has assembled five very gifted actors to tell this tale. Melissa Keith is splendid as the defensive Annie. She carries the heaviest load of the play and skillfully expresses Annie's legitimate fears and desires which all parents share. Hawlan Ng underplays his role as Peter. They both are excellent in their confrontations on the adoption of the African child.

Nkechi Emeruwa and Alexaendrai Bond are pitch perfect as Rebecca and Drea. Emeruwa is coolly beautiful and refined, while Bond is wit personified. Darryl V. Jones is outstanding in the role of next door neighbor Alemu. He has a striking theatrical voice.

Jon Wai-keung Lowe adroitly directs the 100-minute play. He has also nicely created a detailed set of Annie and Peter's living room. Kitty Muntzel's costumes are great for the modern time period.

The Call runs through March 11, 2016, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson at Front Street, San Francisco. For tickets call or 1-800-833-3006. Coming up next Theatre Rhinoceros will present Noel Coward's Present Laughter opening at the Eureka on May 21 and running through June 19th.