Renee (Monique Marshaun) enters with a yoga mat. This is not the first time we have seen her enter a series of exercises meant to help her pregnancy. Though a bit stressed upon entry, we see her slowly calm down as she falls into the rhythm. You may even find yourself becoming a bit entranced in the moment – watching her breath in and out as she moves through each stretch. Renee is completely alone on stage, and this is clearly a space for her.
Suddenly, Renee falls to the ground. The breaths are replaced with screams as she looks down, trying to regain any kind of control over her anxiety. Just when you think the moment cannot become more heartbreaking, Renee hits her pregnant belly. Again and again, she hits, yelling on each impact. Looking around at the other audience members, this writer was not the only one who felt herself looking away – wishing there was more she could do to help this character. Finally exhausted, Renee lets her arms fall to the ground. The room is completely silent as we watch, curious to see what she will do next.
The dystopian play is not always easy to swallow; however, you may just find that what truly pushes this piece over the top is the acting involved. Renee’s journey is a roller coaster, and Marshaun very successfully brings that intimate and heartbreaking story to life.
Redtwist Theatre presents Babel
Written by Jaqueline Goldfinger, Babel explores a world that has imagined perfection. Parents and children are all meant to be tested for that perfection, and the result is a society without anything that might tear it apart – including but not limited to violence, racism, and homophobia. However, as with any dystopian story, nothing ever goes quite as we might hope. If the government has the power to test for perfection, what are the powers in place to keep them in check? What happens if one does not pass for perfection?
Directed by Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary, Babel is quite relevant – touching on the very questions you may find yourself asking about the challenges in our every day. Goldfinger asks the audience to consider: How far might any of us go to cure the world of violence and devastation?
Empathetic Window into Characters’ Fear
Redtwist Theatre’s small space invites the audience into the intimacy of these characters’ relationships – providing a front-row seat to the arguments they have around perfection and the risks involved in bringing new life into the world.
Ann (Soleil Pérez) and her husband, Jamie (Michael Sherwin), find themselves pregnant. At first, they are beyond excited to bring their child into the world and take this next step in the relationship together. However, one night, we see Jamie happen upon Ann who simply cannot sleep. We see her trying to move through her pregnancy exercises – failing to calm down. As Jamie approaches, we see Ann slowly crumble in her anxiety. Before she can help it, she releases her fears into the space – yelling, and wondering what might happen if their child is a monster. If they choose not to test their child, what could happen? What if their child is less than perfect and feeds into the violence in the world?
The intimacy of the space leaves little to the imagination as we see Jamie bring his wife in for a hug – trying to calm her down and bring her back to bed. As Pérez and Sherwin stared into each other’s eyes in this performance, the room was absolutely silent. All that could be heard was their breathing, and it was clear the audience was in it – leaning in and curious to see what would unfold next.
Stellar performances and a thought-provoking script make Babel a story of the moment. If you are one who gravitates towards stories that make you wonder about the world around you, then this is the play for you.
Monique Marshaun (she/her/hers, Renee); Shannon Leigh Webber (she/her/hers, Dani); ensemble member Michael Sherwin (he/him/his, Jamie) and Soleil Pérez (she/her/hers, Ann).
Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary (she/her/hers, director); Eileen Dixon (she/her/hers, assistant director); Haley Willits (she/her/hers, dramaturg); Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (he/him/his, scenic designer); Jeff Brain (he/him/his, property designer and technical director); Kathleen Gardin (she/her/hers, costume designer); Cat Davis (she/her/hers, lighting designer) and Jake Sorgen (he/him/his, sound designer).
Through April 30, 2023
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and
Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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