Review of Be My Baby

Be My Baby both Funny and Poignant

By Penny Petersen

Be My Baby was a huge undertaking for Pinewood Players director Bill Kane and producer Jean Kane. Scenes shift 23 times, four actors play 13 different off-beat characters, and two leading roles require a Scottish accent; all of this on a stage way too small for the play’s enormity. Given the above potential pitfalls, the impossible happened: the Ken Ludwig comedy came to life, and audiences loved it.

Director Bill Kane worked wonders with his cast. His perception of the characters and his ability to coax emotion from actors assured that characters came alive and communicated real feelings throughout.

Les Maurseth led the cast as John with a Scottish accent that was superlative. He was the perfect curmudgeon. As he changed into a softer character, watching him cuddle a doll was wholly believable. Linda Morrison as Maud was appropriately stuffy and bitchy at first, then gradually became a vulnerable complex woman. We never knew why they hated each other at the beginning, but as they developed, we started rooting for them.

Michael Hull played the charming yet wishy-washy Christy spot on. His Scottish accent was wonderful, and his use of dramatic pauses and facial expressions at key moments brought admiration from this director. Melanie Hull had a challenge in portraying Gloria. The character is described as young, selfish, emotional, wild and loveable. Taking those conflicting characteristics and creating a person with whom audiences could empathize was tough. She was up to the task.

Lee Henry, Dolores Lanier, Clyde Morrison and Pam Uveges played the 13 supporting roles. In each case, they made the most of the little the playwright gave them and added to the humor with their delivery. Lanier as the housekeeper had a good Scottish accent and was saucy in both that role and the one as the nurse. Henry as the tipsy parson was perfect, and I particularly liked his Dimitri. Morrison who stole the show with his waiter portrayal, and Uveges played 4 roles, her best being Beverly, the social worker.   Again, Bill Kane’s influence can be seen.

From a technical standpoint, Baby presented many challenges. Jean Kane’s concept of using rear projections solved the difficult problem of scene changes. The rear projection screen gave credible backgrounds for nine different locations. And at the end of the play, there were several slides depicting what happened after the story ended. They were delightful. The split curtain below the slide screen allowed for moving furniture in and out. With 23 scene changes, that means at least 23 costume changes as well, not to mention the myriad of props, and a ton of sound and light ques. PWP building crew did a marvelous job of creating three individual acting areas on a stage adequate for only one. Plus, the set decoration gave a warm feel to Christy’s home and a cooler feel to the San Francisco hotel.

If you’ve never been backstage at the Pinewood Playhouse, it is tiny. With eight actors, eight backstage assistants, and Dotty Young operating the slide show, it was a miracle nobody got hurt or failed to show up for entrances. Credit goes to stage manager Ron Young for keeping things flowing.

With 23 scene changes, actors changing costume every time they leave the stage, and a collection of props that included two baby dolls, there are going to be a few glitches. Several of the scenes which utilized slides were slow in getting started allowing the momentum of the play to temporarily drop. But audiences were patient, and the pace picked up as soon as the lights came up.

The quality of acting and production achieved by PWP never ceases to amaze me. The hundreds of hours of work and dedication by actors, directors, technicians, and all the volunteers is incredible. All the residents of Munds Park should appreciate what a jewel they really have.

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