The Electric Baby | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Electric Baby

The intimate production dissolves the fourth wall and shares the magic of storytelling

Ruth Gamble and Nick Lehane (background) and Monteze Freeland in Quantum's The Electric Baby
Ruth Gamble and Nick Lehane (background) and Monteze Freeland in Quantum's The Electric Baby

The execution of Quantum Theatre's world premiere of The Electric Baby is as dazzling as the dialogue is dreamful. Playwright Stefanie Zadravec and director Daniella Topol have collaborated to present the audience with an intimate production that dissolves the fourth wall and shares the magic of storytelling.

And there are several stories weaving together. Anchoring the play is an unlikely couple, both immigrants, steeped in the folkloric wisdom of centuries past, and seemingly fixed at either end of the "stage." The Romanian wife (an authoritative Robin Abramson) minds the baby and admonishes the audience with adages and advice passed down from her grandmother, a witch in the soothsayer/wise woman tradition. The Nigerian husband (Monteze Freeland, in an amazing Quantum debut) spends most of the play in a hospital bed, spinning folk tales and daring to dream beyond his many hardships. The actors blend comedy and charm to infuse credibility into their odd characters.

Meanwhile, in the "reality" of 21st-century Pittsburgh are various ordinary, if troubled, people who get to dash about the theater while dealing with their problems. Laurie Klatscher and John Shepard ably unfold the anger and frustration of a marriage long soured by grief. Ruth Gamble, an indelicate ingénue, works through her own guilt, "seeing" her ghost in every young man she encounters. This enables Nick Lehane's star turn transforming himself from one persona to another without pause, to chilling as well as comic effect.

Scenic designer Stephanie Mayer-Staley and scenic artist Kellan Andersen add to the magic, with props popping up from the stage when needed. The rest of the tech team also deserves applause: Richard Parsakian, costumes; R.J. Romeo, production director; Janet Madelle Feindel, voice/dialect; Jennifer Dillon, stage manager; Jesse Van Swol, technical director; Dina Vosvi, assistant director; C. Todd Brown, lighting; and Ryan McMasters, sound, who also composed and played the music.

Sound and light were augmented on opening night with a perfectly timed thunderstorm. The gods smile down on The Electric Baby.

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