Swedish Satire Hits All the Right Moves
Paul Brissett, for the News Tribune
November 2, 2012
UMD Theatre’s production of White Baby, which opened Thursday in Marshall Performing Arts Center, is what might have happened if Albert Camus had met Neil Simon at Woody Allen’s house.
It’s perhaps the most interesting, stimulating production to grace a Twin Ports stage in memory.
Sofia Freden’s script, translated from the Swedish by Edward Buffalo Bromberg, is a satire, its Absurdist ancestry clearly evident in its style.
It tells of six people passing along an unwanted baby. To avoid the darkness that would ordinarily haunt such a plot, the baby is represented by a paper sack and never referred to as a baby; “stuff,” “it” and — at its most explicit — “the wee one” are the terms used.
Freden’s dialogue is stuffed with non sequiturs and double-entendres (pardon my French), which a virtually perfect cast plays straight — but for all it’s worth.
UMD’s selection of Andy Bennett as guest director turns out to have been a master stroke. The UMD grad, playwright and executive director of Renegade Theater Company, has coached his performers to go flat out in their approach to their characters.
Kate Zehr, as Eva, a high government official who gives birth to the baby, is a driven careerist who takes herself as seriously as can be, even while forking down gobs of an entire frosted cake. Her news conference gyrations are reminiscent of former President George H. W. Bush’s awkward gestures.
Joshua Stenvick plays Hans, Eva’s former lover but probably not the baby’s father, on whom she foists the “stuff.” His face a veritable map of Sweden, Stenvick is beleaguered and torn — between an instinctive fondness for “it” and his current paramour’s antipathy toward it.
His new love is Marie, played hilariously over-the-top by Caity Shea Violette, whose greatest moments are not her lightning-quick switches from glaring to seductive but rather her rapid-fire extended speeches.
Marie, in an effort to regain Hans’s undivided affection, passes the bag to one of her former lovers, Lars, played by Daniel Novick as a shiftless, smarmy, swaggering idiot.
Much of the production’s appeal is visual, with Kathleen Martin’s costumes — a rainbow in Act I, shades of gray in Act II — set against Jenna Houck’s striking set of panels and doorways, all in light gray. Bennett even offers visual jokes, such as Eva’s cake pig out or when a reporter exits with a Michael Jackson moonwalk and twirl.
It’s definitely not a play for kids. It opens with a woman entering, followed by a man, and the two of them, without a word, simulate coitus. And then it gets explicit. It’s not recommended for anyone younger than 17.
Final dress rehearsal October 31, 2012
By Sara Hughes
In honor of the 25th anniversary of Duluth’s Sister City relationship with Växjö, Sweden, Swedish playwright Sofia Fredén graced Duluth, Minnesota with not only her presence but her play Lilla Livet, or “The Little Life”. Titled White Baby in America, White Baby was translated into English by Edward Buffalo Bromberg and was directed by Andy Bennett. Bennett was the writer/director of the successful and unique play, Ghost Light which just wrapped up performances on the 27th. In Ghost Light, special effects were used, and in a live performance that is always a gamble. In the production of White Baby, however, Bennett faced an obstacle unlike any in Ghost Light. This obstacle presented itself as a challenge; do White Baby justice in English.
A play out of Sweden is bound to contain inside references and humor only Swedes would understand, just like American movies contain inside references and humor only Americans would understand. These references in White Baby are seen- yes, not understood- probably. The confusion didn’t matter because the overacting comedic performances saved it. White Baby featured remarkable acting across the stage. Each actor encased their own extreme individual personality in the over-the-top comedy White Baby.
The script was full of extensive monologues, especially for Kate Zehr who played Eva, and Caity Shea Violette who played Marie. Zehr played a high ranked government official, and presented her lines as if everything she said was an important speech. Her character was a comedic jab at the seriousness of politics, and it was hilariously done.
Violette played Marie, an insecure, psychotic, and to top it off, bipolar girlfriend. Violette owned the part. A visual interpretation into the mind of Marie was often presented between scenes. Violette would go into a trance-like state where she looked blankly into the audience while rapidly firing off monologues and stroking her hair obsessively. Violette is a talented one. She was so fun to watch, and the audience loved her.
The set, lighting, and costume design all contributed positively to White Baby’s success. The set designer, Jenna Houck created a set that was Clockwork Orange-esque, all white and out of the ordinary. Tables were made out of doors, doorknobs included. Upon the play even beginning, the set design insinuated an original production and it prepared the audience for what was to come.
The lighting design by Becca Charpentier, supported the production in a unique way. For example, during Caity Shea Violette’s extensive monologues, the swirling red and pink textured lights surrounding her on a dark stage successfully showed the audience they were in an alternate reality, like that of her character, Marie’s mind. The spotlights during the second act, however, were distracting. The actors were each seated in chairs in front of doors with spotlights shining at an angle down on them. The lights fell in front of the actors fine, but created a heavy line directly behind the actors on the doors. Had the doors not been there, perhaps the spotlights would have been perfect. Overall, however, the lighting was positively effective.
The costume design by Kathleen Martin was fantastic. When the costumes are not necessarily noticed, it is apparent the designer has done their job. In other words, the choices in costume fit the play and fit the characters. The characters were unique in their own and their clothes matched. The audience was not surprised when Maria DePesa who played Vivi came out wearing yellow tights up to her belly button with a gold sequenced top; it fit her character to a T.
As Americans who have never seen the Swedish version of White Baby, it is impossible to know if Bennett did it justice in English. Perhaps he did, but perhaps he didn’t. In the movie business, American remake films are never true to the original foreign film. Often what happens is the directors try too hard to make it like the original, which is a set up for disaster. Perhaps that is why White Baby was so out of the ordinary. Bennett didn’t want to strive for something impossible to reach, so instead created something new. White Baby was a fantastic play.
By Matt Quinn
White Baby is a play that was written and produced in Sweden by Sofia Freden. A major challenge for this production was the translation of Sofia's play from Swedish to English. Director Andy Bennett was in charge of that challenge. Andy had said that it was hard to capture everything from the play and translate it. After seeing this play that could not be more obvious. White Baby was just bizarre and hard to follow at times. It may be meant to appear odd to the audience but it is hard to be sure. Apart from some good characters and design there is not much going for this story.
First of all the story was bizarre. This play centers around a group of characters and a Baby nobody wants. The Baby is represented by a brown paper bag and is tossed around like a pigskin. The problem is that there is no main character. Perhaps the Baby is the main character but the audience can't relate to a brown bag. The Baby's parents are believed to be Hans (Joshua Stenvick) and Eva (Kate Zehr). Hans is the most relatable character who is in an odd relationship with his ex wife Eva and his new women Marie (Caity Shea Violette) is just crazy. Lars (Daniel Novick) was the best character with a minor role in the progression of the story. Lars was funny and the only really laughable character. Other supporting characters are thrown in the mix but they had no real purpose in this play. Hans just wants what is best for his baby when it is thrown into his life. This production has a good premise but the story was too hard to follow at times. Members of the audience could be heard saying how confused they were. The story arch is messy and the dialogue and interaction between characters was hard to understand at times. Again this production had to be translated and it is very apparent how much was lost in the process.
The cast of this production had difficult roles to play with but did a solid job with what they had.
The character of Marie was played by Caity Shea Violette and she did a nice job. Marie was just crazy and full of energy. Violette really did a great job in making Marie stand out. Daniel Novick did a fantastic job playing Lars. His performance was hilarious and all of his expressions made Lars stand out. Joshua Stenvick and Kate Zehr also performed well and had some good chemistry between them. Stenvick really seemed like a dad at times while caring for his brown bag. The character of Eva was also enjoyable and her bizarre behavior was fun to watch. As a government official Eva spoke with intensity and energy. As for the rest of the characters they were not as important and didn't stand out as much like the others.
Design in this production was fantastic and the really big thing that stood out. The lighting was key in setting tones and scenery. The lighting gave scenes life, especially the bar scenes. Very good composition in this play. Between scenes the lights would blackout and music would play as the stage crew changed the setting and it added a nice effect. For the crying of the baby a sound byte played over the stage and it worked fairly well. The costumes for the actors weren't anything special and it didn't need to be. Overall a great job in the design of White Baby.
As a play White Baby does alright. The story wasn't the greatest but some solid characters and good acting help. White Baby just lacks a standout main character or protagonist. Again this story may have the intent to be different. Still an interesting experience and entertaining. A play worth seeing.
Cassie Gazzolo's Review on White Baby 10/31
The theatre production of White Baby put on by UMD opened Thursday in the Marshall Performing Arts Center, with a final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night before the opening of the show. The performance of White Baby is in honor of the 25th anniversary of Duluth's Sister City relationship with Vaxjo, Sweden.
Sofia Freden's script was translated from Swedish to English by Edward Buffalo Bromberg. Andy Bennett was the director for White Baby. Bennett is a graduate from UMD and is also the director of Renegade Theatre Company. Bennett not only is a director but he also is a playwright, he wrote the play Ghost Light that recently took place at Renegade.
The costume designer of White Baby Kathleen Martin, created very different looks for Acts I and II. Martin used many colors in the various costumes to keep the audiences attention. Jenna Houck created the scenery used in the performance, which included tables made from doors with the door knobs included. The lighting designer Becca Charpentier, which created a very unique support key in the performance. During times throughout the performance Charpentier used many different colors, however, so of the spotlights were distracting. The Dudley Experimental Theatre is where the performance took place, and it was very unique compared to performances in Weber Music Hall and the Marshall Performing Arts Center.
White Baby is a story of six people passing around this unwanted baby. A paper sack is the symbol that is represented in place of an actual baby and was never referred to as being a baby. The characters referred to the baby as: “it,” “stuff,” and “the wee one.”
Kate Zehr, played Eva a Swedish Deputy Prime Minister, who had given birth to this unwanted baby. Eva is career driven and focused on how she can better herself in her career. She takes herself very seriously even when she was “pigging out” on frosted cake. Eva expresses that she does not want this baby or anything to do with it, so she decides to pass it off to her ex-husband, Hans played by Joshua Stenvick. Hans's new love Marie played by Caity Shea Violette does not want Hans to keep this baby so she passes the baby to Lars played by Daniel Novick. Lars is Marie's old love. The storyline behind White Baby got confusing during the times when the baby kept getting passed off to other people, however, the actors did a phenomenal job portraying their characters.
Guest director Bennett created humor with Eva's pig out on cake and when the reporter exited with gestures that Michael Jackson would have done in some of his music videos. Not only did Bennett do a good job directing the show he also created a well done social and political satire. White Baby is a very unique play something that audiences at UMD theatre performances have never experienced before.
White Baby highly recommended for adults or anyone older than 17 years old with its adult subject matter, sexual content, and explicit language. White Baby is unique to UMD theatre and is a performance worth seeing.
White Baby presented by UMD Theatre was in a word, strange. This very peculiar play had a certain feel to it that would definitely not appeal to everyone. The first scene opened the performance with an unforgettable bang that set the stage for what was going to unfold. Nothing against the actors of the play, but the writing was very strange. The members of the audience had a polarized reaction; some really seemed to enjoy it, others, not so much.
The plot was convoluted, and did not seem to pertain to anything going on in the world today. It was very hit and miss in terms of humor and physical comedy. The reason that some of the verse was awkward may have been because the play was written in Norwegian and did not appear to translate well. Regardless, the plot should have been adjusted a little to appeal more American audiences. An example of this confusion and mistranslation was when Lars decided to go to Africa, following by a tiny lion appearing out of nowhere. This seemed rather pointless and did not result in much laughter from the audience.
This play did have an exceptionally versatile stage, which should be applauded. With all of the scene changes that needed different furniture, the producers and designers did a fantastic job. The stage crew also deserves recognition because they were on spot at every break in the play, swiftly setting the stage for the next scene.
The actors in this production stole the show. With a bizarre plot that was already raising eyebrows, they created believable characters that shocked, annoyed, or jaded us (like they were intended to). Kate Zehr (Eva) did a magnificent job of being a strong-willed career woman who would never need a man. Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick, was as close to perfect as he could be. He was frustrated, in love, and very confused about what he wanted out of life, and Stenvick embodied this flawlessly. Marie, played by Caity Shae Violette, annoyed everyone (in a good way) with her hyperactive and childish actions. Daniel Novick (Lars) played the role of a poor homeless man very well. He wanted women, eventually getting more than he bargained for in Africa. The rest of the actors: Amanda Sjodahl, Maria DePesa, Chelsea Lin Reller, Katie Workman, and Lauren Schulke did marvelously in their roles. The actors carried this script, carried the show, and kept the audience interested.
Unlike most plays, the costumes were not over-the-top. This worked because these characters were not very extraordinary and were not exactly special. They were normal people going through their lives trying to find love, happiness, and in this case, a baby. The wardrobe consisted of pretty normal everyday clothes that could be seen worn in all parts of the world (universal).
White Baby was a edgy performance that pushed the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. The play had a rating outside the door (R for mature audiences only), which definitely should be enforced. With strong language and sexual references to the atypical plot, this play is one that only adults could enjoy along with understand. This play would be a great one to see because it is just so different than anything else out there. True, it could have a better plot, but it is unquestionably one to take the time to go see, at least for the unique experience.
Ever see a new mother decide to keep her infant in a… well, paper bag? Ever see her accidentally sit on the paper bag? If this is something that sounds interesting, see White Baby. This is not a production for the easily offended. The play is a social commentary on what a family can be, and the responsibilities associated with this commitment, but do not be confused: this is NOT a family show.
Swedish playwright Sophia Fredén illustrates the extreme of dysfunctional families in a cutting edge way. Fredén seems to be commenting on the maturity level required of parents. Her play depicts a bunch of adults acting like children when it comes to raising a little white baby. They all act with such careless disregard that somehow the infant is shipped to Africa! In a classic child-like fashion, this is when they all decide that they want to the child after all—once it is out of reach.
Director Andy Bennett did a fantastic job working with Fredén’s script, and working with the Swedish humor, which, apparently, was not translated to Fredén’s satisfaction. Despite the fact that nuances were certainly lost from the original Swedish script, the play was hilarious. Each character was self absorbed, neurotic, and just a little unhinged. The dialogue was fast, witty, and very relatable despite the fantastic qualities of all the characters. Early in the show Marie, played by Caity Shea Violette, decided to part ways with boyfriend Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick, over a package his ex-wife forced him to pick up. The audience can relate to that type of jealousy, but perhaps not the extreme way the situation played its self out.
Another aspect of the play that Bennett smartly addressed, in collaboration with Jenna Houck and Kelly McLeod, was the set, as well as the actual scene changes. The entire set was very minimal—everything being a white door, or something that resembled a white door. This surrealness of the set enhanced the oddity of the show a great deal, as well as providing a sense of interest during each of the many scene changes in the first act. The lack of scene changes in the second act was almost a disappointment! One of the most notable scene changes involved a table that was actually a door folded in the middle on a hinge. It seemed a precarious table that nearly toppled over during the performance. Intentional or not, the tension of the wobbly door-table certainly fit in with the uncomfortable and somewhat stressful qualities of the show.
Despite the fact that it was the preview performance before opening night, each and every member of the cast was on point. Kate Zehr, who played Eva, was hysterical and simultaneously annoying each and every time she ventured into a long rant about her love of politics. Violette’s extra crazy portrayal of Marie was highly successful, evoking much laughter from the audience. Stenvick played the passive middle-aged man, who is somewhat defeated by life. His meltdowns stole the show.
White Baby is a very unusual show that highlights all of the qualities a child would not choose in their parents. In a strange way, however, these misfit characters all form a very dysfunctional family throughout their experiences. They are still nowhere near being fit to raise a child at the end of the play, but the characters each show promise of perhaps growing into a true parental figure in the future.
UMD Experimental Theatre
Review by Janelle Kloth
(I just wanted to let you know before the review that I really didn't follow the play very well, so if I am inaccurate about something I apologize.)
White Baby is a play by Sofia Freden who is from Sweden but for America's sake we were fortunate enough to have Edward Buffalo Bromberg translate it for us. Where to even begin is the real question here. Well it takes place in Sweden but is in English again for us Americans. Set on a stage in a black-box theatre that is very small and everything takes place in a small area.
We follow six main characters who all have one goal to find a baby..... they lost! Eva has the child but doesn't want it so it gets passed around to her ex husband Hans and his psycho wife Marie, then to Lars who is Marie's ex lover and then Esmeralda(who is Eva's daughter) and Vivi(Esmeralda's girlfriend). We slowly go through each characters interaction with the baby who is actually represented in a brown paper bag and is literally treated like that bag. Meaning it gets thrown around, dropped, sat on, and many other things that bags but not babies should experience. In the end they all want the baby back and head to Africa to find it, except none of them had the right color baby meaning it was black not white. Finally they agree to all take care of it together.
This was definitely a vulgar play with blunt language and sex/sexual references all the time, which made it funny. Each character had their own hilarious personality, still the most fun and enticing character was Marie hands down. She was very spontaneous and psychotic and was played amazingly well by Caity Shea Violette. The audience was laughing the minute she walked in the door no matter what she was doing.
Now the set was painted all white with the lights being the only things to bring color to the set. Another thing that the crew did fantastically well was use the set. All the doors could be taken out and used as tables or any other prop. Their set moving was efficient and quick with no problems that was noticeable. By the end all the doors were out signifying all the characters coming together to raise this child in their dysfunctional family.
Despite how funny and vulgar the play was there were some difficulties. First thing was it was seriously hard to follow. With so many set and scene changes it took awhile to figure out where we were again. Also there was so many really random reactions and things that happened all the time, like for example Marie and her talking to herself while pulling her hair. And Lars having a thing come out of him. Suggestion is there should have been a better plot-line to follow and not so much randomness which it really was just randomness that brought most of the laughs.
Overall the play was definitely unique and very funny with an amazing tech crew and cast. Something to see if you want different and weird.
White Baby review
Friday November 9th, 2012
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Duluth Sister City relationship with Vaxjo, Sweden, UMD theatre’s production performed White Baby in Dudley Experimental Theatre. Edward Buffalo Bromberg translated White Baby from Swedish to English and was directed by Andy Bennett. The genre of White Baby was satire because it was very witty and exaggerated the characters reactions to this baby. This play is not suitable for children. There is strong language, nudity, and sexual content. White Baby is for a mature audience, 17 years of age and older.
From a theatrical perspective, the script supported the director’s approach to the material. Almost all of the script was dialogue between characters. As stated before, the script was very witty and had strong language. The script was very successful because in order for the play to be believable, the language needed to be foul. For example, there were many arguments between Hans and Marie. If Bennett did not strong words in the script, the argument would not have been believable, because most arguments that take place in real life have curse words involved.
Lighting designer, Becca Charpentier was phenomenal. The lighting reinforced the style of the production. The lights changed brightness many times throughout the play, which made it realistic. When Hans went to the bar, Charpentier dimmed the lights so it was more dark, which is how most night bars are. But when all six characters went to social services to find out where the baby was, it was very bright, like they were in the waiting room. The lights allowed the audience to shift scenes with the actors and made the audience believe that they were sitting in the room with the characters waiting to find out where the baby was.
From an artistic perspective, the actors were amazing. In act I, no one wanted anything to do with the baby. There were many times in the play where people would sit on the baby, spill on the baby, or even throw it out. It was not realistic, because no one would actually treat a baby that way, but it supported Bennett’s approach to the play. Bennett’s main goal was to show the audience none of the actors wanted this baby, and that was portrayed well. It was clear that no one wanted the baby, and when they did have it, they treated it poorly.
From an artist perspective, Kathleen Martin was spot on with costumes. There was nothing very special about that or made them stick out. They portrayed the characters very well in what they did for a living in the play. When Eva was being interviewed, it looked like she was actually an important government worker. Also, the interviewers looked stereotypical with their jackets and hats on. The costumes were a big part of why the actors were realistic and believable in this performance. Martin definitely did her research to see what each character should be wearing in White Baby.
Personally, this play is definitely worth attending. It is for a mature audience, and for a good reason. The script is very witty and ironic and if someone is looking for a good laugh this weekend, they should head over to the Marshall Performing Arts Center and see Bennett’s play, White Baby.
Review by Ryan Olsen
Sofia Freden’s masterful satire originally written in Swedish and later translated to English is about an out of this world story about self-centered characters all trying to pass off a child that none consider themselves able or willing to take care of.
The story was quite strange and whole-heartedly unrealistic. The message white baby gives off is often unclear, it seems to be about the issue of people giving their children away and the doubts that people have when they suddenly have to deal with the birth of an unexpected child. At the same time it touches heart with the regrets of giving a child away and even searching for that child when the cast realizes a mistake has been made.
The social commentary is very well hidden in the jokes and through the jokes you can understand why none of the cast are well suited to be a child’s parent on their own, but together who knows. Overall Freden achieved the right balance between comedy and hard issues to cover in a satire. Some would say the swearing and overall raunchiness of the play was unnecessary but without it the underline nature would hit the viewers hard, the cast are all monsters giving away a child because it’s inconvenient, no it’s much better to mask the seriousness of the issue by shocking the audience with the use of the C word.
Let’s not forget it’s a satire and the crowd was laughing, overall white baby was very successful at making the crowd laugh. It might not have struck people that giving a child away is serious business until later but the comedy was there from the opening act until the end of the show. Marie was amazing with her small breakdowns and neediness driving Hans insane causing his outburst in return worked very well. Some portions of the play seemed out of place like Han’s childish boss or the stripper not mail women because it wasn’t a post office that Lars ran into. Oddly even though things where scattered and even random at times the show really pulled together and create a cohesive whole albeit leave viewer to wonder if the missed something.
White baby is very worthwhile to see, the execution of which while a little coarse is well done. Without a doubt there are inside jokes to miss or things might just have been lost in translation but whatever the case it’s hard not to appreciate the characters or the story even the gritty spots are entertaining. Maybe not a family performance but a great performance non-the-less and perfect for a college environment, more likely perfect for college students to appreciate.
Review by Josh Biles
November 8, 2012
White Baby, was written by Swedish playwright Sofia Freden, and translated to English by Edward Buffalo Bromberg for the 25th anniversary of Duluth, MN and Vaxjo, Sweden’s sister city relationship.
One word to describe this production is “bizarre”. There was always something new happening, and some other random thought being said. Ideas in this play are sometimes hard to follow, but at the same time they can be extremely funny, just because of how random they are. At one point, one of the journalists exited the stage by doing a signature Michael Jackson moonwalk.
Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick, was the main male character. Throughout, he was stuck between Maria, his current girlfriend, played by Caity Shea Violette, and his Ex, Eva, who was played by Kate Zehr. He was annoyed with Marie throughout the story due to her insecurity in their relationship as well as her childish behavior.
Many times, Marie began or ended a scene playing with her hair or dress and repeating a phrase over and over, to reassure herself that it was true. Other times she would switch to a distinct accent and say a quick phrase that got many laughs. Violette, was excellent at portraying a childish, insecure girlfriend, and was a great source for comic relief.
Eva, a strong, independent woman, showed change throughout the story. In the beginning she didn’t care for “it” and only wanted to get rid of “it”. By the end, though she only wanted “it” back to help her career, she seemed to have changed her attitude about “the wee one” and wanted to raise her. Her long speeches were particularly entertaining. Her use of gestures was completely overdone but that made it funny. Sometimes she rambled about political things and sometimes made very deep points, which could me missed and interpreted as humor due to the delivery.
There were moments when the audience could sense that something was lost in the translation or the crossing of cultures. These moments there was some nervous laughing because no one was sure whether it was supposed to be funny, or not. Things that could have been funny by Swedish humor, was not understood in English, making some things seem a bit awkward.
Overall the production went very smoothly and the acting was wonderful. If the goal of this play was to make people laugh, it certainly was successful. The play was funny and entertaining, but there was also a sense of searching for understanding. Most of the audience did not seem to know what was going on, or why something happened for a good portion of the play. So although it was executed very well by everyone involved, it was quite hard to feel a sense of really liking this play.
For the 25th anniversary between Duluth and sister city Vaxjo, Sweden; Andy Bennet directed a Swedish play translated into English. White Baby was written and produced by Sofia Freden. Edward Buffalo Bromberg made the translations of the play from Swedish to English.
This play is definitely not for everyone. If you are easily offended, under the age of 17, or aren't a play fanatic you might want to skip this one. There is a paper bag being tossed around, sat on, and thrown out doors along with other poor treatments. We learn very quickly that inside the paper bag is a baby. The opening scene has some sexual content that most adults might not want their kids to see. Don't let this stop you from seeing the play Andy and his cast did a great job with this show its the original writing that some may not like.
The struggles faced to translate this show from Swedish humor into English humor make this all the better. The crowd was laughing for a good amount of the play as we should have it was hilarious. Sure there were times that some got lost because of the translations. For the most part they were clear and the audience was laughing. Everytime Marie had a breakdown laughs were heard throughout the theater. Hans would freak out because of these breakdowns and those also resulted with laughter. Lars is a character we don't really care about like others but that also helps the humor of the show. Something about him isn't quite there and a lot is drawn from that.
The set itself was very well utilized and put together. The white lights illuminated the set and curtains behind it. The doors could all be taken out and one was even used as a table also. With the little space they had it seemed crammed but the scene changes went without an issue. The symbolism of the doors out at the end signifying everyone coming together was also a cool part of the set.
Overall this play seemed like a success. The acting was wonderful, the translations were English friendly, and the crowd got to laugh many times throughout the show. It is cool that UMD was able to put this show on in honnor of the 25th anniversary with the sister city Vaxjo, Sweden.
White Baby Review
By: Courtney Johnson
White Baby is a play that is by Sofia Freden, who happens to be from Sweden. This performance was done in honor of the 25th anniversary of Duluth's relationship with Sweden. So fortunately for us, the play was translated by Edward Buffalo Bromberg, in English. White Baby was directed by Andy Bennet and was presented by UMD in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. Not only does Andy direct plays, but he is also a playwright. He also is the director of Renegade.
The designers of White Baby did an excellent job I thought! Kathleen Martin was the costume designer of White Baby. She grabbed the audience's attention with all of the different colors that was used and presented throughout the different outfits. The outfits matched the characters personalities to a T. The character's costumes where a huge reason why the audience was able to believe more that the actors were their characters in the show. Becca Charpentier did a wonderful job with the lighting throughout the production. She made the lights change different levels of brightness during the play. By doing this, the play was made to be more realistic and believable. The dimming of lights throughout the play made the audience feel as though they were part of the play, because they were able to shift through the different scenes as the play progressed. The lighting would set the setting tones, like the bar scenes especially. The low dim lighting made the bar scenes realistic. Jenna Houck was in charge of creating the scenery of the play. The scenery of the play was a little odd, but then again so was the play.
The actors in this production did extremely well. The six characters kept passing around the unwanted baby. The paper sack in the production was to resemble the unwanted baby. The point of the play was that no one wanted this baby. For instance, this baby was sat and spilled on in the play, to prove the point. Another example to prove that the baby was unwanted, was that the baby was referred to as "it", or "stuff". They never showed compassion towards the baby. The mother of the unwanted baby was Eva, played by Kate Zehr. In the play, Eva was a Swedish Deputy Prime Minister and takes her job seriously. Once she has this baby she she shows no interest in the baby and decides to pass along the baby to her ex-husband. Her ex-husband, Hans, is played by Joshua Stenvick. Hans's new lover, Marie, who was played by Caity Shea Violette, did not want him to keep the baby. Therefore, the baby is passed again to Marie's ex-lover, Lars, who was played by Daniel Novick. As the baby was getting passed along it was sort of hard to follow, because the baby kept getting moved around. Even though this was the case, the actors were able to keep their characters straight.
Based off the humor of the play, this play is geared towards adults. This play is not for children not only because of the type of humor that was presented throughout the play, but because of the language. Swear words were heard and would not be appropriate for children to hear. This play was unique and definitely worth seeing. It was hard to follow at times, but eventually got back on track. It is a play that is guaranteed to be a play that one has not seen before.
By Jarad Reiser
Shock, confusion, and bluntness are a few of many feelings that arise when seeing the production "White Baby". The audience is instantly shocked by a sex scene. It's that very scene that causes the confusion for the events that follow. Bluntness of the characters give support to the productions ability to get the crowd sucked into this seemingly white innocent set. The journey of the characters has something oddly intriguing about it.
The first fixation that catches the eye is the stage set up. The white makes you feel like the show will be very upright and proper. But not five seconds into the play, it's easy to see this innocent white set is a decoy for what is to come. Lighting and music greatly contributed to the feel of the production. Starting with the first scene, the audience was not prepared for what was about to happen. Lights turned a mellow intimate color, and music left little to the imagination about what was to come next. Each scene was exacerbated by the lighting. One that particularly sticks out was when Marie (Caity Shea Violette) was left alone. A dim purple color hits her face as she strokes her hair eagerly, which makes you feel the anticipation and fast thoughts she portrayed. Music in-between scenes left the audience feeling happy go lucky, which was then sharply interrupted by the actors. The flexibility of the stage was well noted as well. From the speeches of Eva (Kate Zehr) on the podium, to the finishing scenes in Africa. Fantastic lighting and sound would have fallen short to please the crowd if it wasn't for the exceptional performers.
Acting throughout this production was phenomenal. Each performer kept their poise, even during the funniest parts of the show. When Eva expressed her curiosity for the bag laying on the bench for example. Her facial expressions truly led you to believe she was infatuated with this bag. Hans (Joshua Stenvick) was holding the show together from a storyline aspect. His calm demeanor held the constant turmoil of the story together. He made you believe a man could actually handle a girl like Marie. While Marie caused comedic tension, the opposite was true of Lars (Daniel Novick), which provided much comedic relief. Clearly a crowd favorite, Novick held down his role with ease. Every facial expression and even hand gestures shaped the audiences view of this goof ball. He walks on the stage with a swagger that is contagious. Besides Lars, the other favorite was Marie. Her crazy actions and gestures captured the audience in her stressfully exuberant personality. The actors kept their mannerisms during scenes when one was less active then the others, staying in character quite well.
The superb acting combined with the versatility of the stage makes this show something to go out of your way to see. Its different and risky, which grabs your attention from the beginning and holds it onto the very end. Certainly not your everyday show. Keep your grandparents at home, grab your friends and go see this show!
November 12, 2012
White Baby Review
UMD Theater’s production of White Baby portrayed a family of people, dysfunction as it was, who at first hated the idea of a “wee one” but grew to all want “it” in the end. The surprising cultural similarities from the translated Swedish play gave insight to what an unplanned pregnancy may result in; a hatred towards “it” that grows into a love for “the wee one”. Andy Bennett’s direction of this play was harsh but realistically inspiring. Although a different genre to produce at UMD, this play was able to find great humor while still allowing its audience to see into a different world.
The unexpected comedy of this play was the most surprising element of White Baby. The actress most responsible for the humor would be Caity Shea Violette as Marie. Violette outstood her few one-dimensional cast mates as she was able to be a desirable love interest, a childish personality, and a humor filled character from her long tangent speeches. Because of her stomps around stage and eye drawing acts of childish Marie, it was hard to not watch Violette and at times, lose interest in the current theme acted by the rest of the cast.
A second most interesting supporting character was Lars, played by Daniel Nonick. He was at first uncomfortable to watch but grew to show the audience how loving he was to “the wee one” and to his child bearing acquaintance, Eva. Kate Zehr’s projection of Eva was also at first uncomfortable to watch, just because of Eva’s snippy attitude and gross distaste for the child she bore. One aspect that was slightly unnecessary was the political “accent” that Zehr used. It made Eva sound even more stuck up and less compassionate even in the second Act when everyone wanted “it”.
Vivi, played by Maria DePesa was a second humor filled supporting character. Although she was not on stage a lot, DePesa’s attitude as Vivi was always entertaining. The constant need for attention and recognition was funny as well as her acts of drawing when she was bored on stage and adjusting herself on Esmerelda’s lap because of her need of having constant attention.
This play was rightly done in the Dudley Experimental Theater as it is unlike any other plays produced at UMD. The venue was great to showcase the lighting design by student designer Becca Charpentier. The set design is one that still poses confusion. Although the doors on stage were put to excellent use, it is still puzzling why so many were used as set pieces. From the table to a bar to a desk, tables were used in every dimension of the set. This was an interesting take on the set design but also allowed for the audience to imagine their own set design. The doors “opened doors” for other design possibilities.
Although the time frame was never disclosed, popular music was used for set changes and kept interest of the audience. The songs were rightly chosen for the Swedish translation of the play.
This Thursday I attended UMD’s production, White Baby. This production was filled with profanity and unexpected situations, and portrays some interesting relationships involved with all the characters. Sofia Freden grabbed the audiences attention by illustrating a child as a brown paper bag rather than an actual human being, and the emotion toward the baby is no more then a slight smile or hug until later in the second act. The abnormality of referring to an infant as an object that can just be thrown into bushes is absurd to the American society, and Freden gave the audience a wake up call with this type of behavior. Andy Bennett did a fascinating job taking all these unusual elements and meshing them together to create a cohesive (yet extraordinary!) production at UMD.
The cast contributed to the success of the production greatly. The actor Caity Shea Violette, who played Marie, was refreshing due to her ability to illustrate so many different personalities and mood-swings within the play. She drew the crowd in by whining one second to Hans, and being sassy the next to Lars . Kate Zehr (Eva), Joshua Stenvick (Hans), and Daniel Novick (Lars) had such stability with their characters personalities. They created believable atmospheres, and was convincing to the audience in terms of making the storyline seem real. The neglecting, sympathizing, terrifying scenarios of the play were cohesive due these stock characters creating their own dynamic within the production. The actors embraced the people they were supposed to be portraying, and the attempt to engage the audience in these interesting relationships was a success. It was easy to pick up on the hidden emotion behind several of the characters just by the body language and slight changes in personality.
The constant scene changing made the play enjoyable to watch because it provided the audience with constant movement of place and time. The lighting director, Becca Charpentier, made the scene changes seem irrelevant and swift as if it was just a simple pause in the production. The white background seemed a bit ordinary seeing it pre-production, but as the play progressed and the scene changes took place, it become more appropriate for the overall setting.
The one moment in the play that seemed slightly “off” was act 2. Act 1 was full of movement and exciting scene changes where act 2 was only based in Africa and the characters were only stationed in one area. Bennett could have reexamined the relationship between the two acts, and made them more cohesive in terms of scenic design and the way props were used. There also could have been more of an attempt to transform act 2’s setting to illustrate more African-like features.
White Baby was an unordinary experience to say the least. The use of profound language and explicit gestures made it thrilling, yet humorous and never failed to keep the audience engaged. The inhumane nature of the characters actions towards the infant made the performance shocking but still entertaining. It allowed the audience to want more and anticipate what was going to happen next. The production was a delight to see due to the abnormality of the storyline, and separates itself from the stereotypical “broadway production.”
UMD's presentation of the Swedish play White Baby, was an interesting performance mixed with humour and style. The play centered around six people, who became intertwined in a plot to first rid themselves of an unwanted child, and finally a mad rush to find it again.
Set in Sweden, the the play was intriguing to watch as director Andy Bennet skillfully displayed the rejection of an undesired child, and all the complications that arise as a result.
Considering the play had to be translated from its original Swedish tongue into English, one must give due credit to the actors for mastering the plot and developing the subtle underlyings in a way which the audience could understand and relate.
The play is concentrated around Eva (Kate Zehr) who plays the part of a high level Swedish official. Her past sexual relations with Hans (Joshua Stenvick), and Lars (Daniel Norvick) lead into attempts to rid herself of a child of which she is unsure of the father. However her efforts are thwarted by Marrie (Caity Shea Violette) who plays the part of Han's new girlfriend. Marrie feels threatened by the presence of a child which reminds her of Han's past love life. The story further escalates when Eva's daughter Esmerelda (Amanda Sjodahl) and her lesbian friend Vivi (Maria DePersa) become involved. Esmerelda experiences a longing to care for and nurture the baby, but Vivi exhibits the same feelings of jealousy which Marrie did, and forces the abandonment of the child.
In Act 1, all the characters scramble to dispose of the baby. Throughout the whole fabrication, the kid is portrayed by a brown paper bag which is smashed and squished in every way possible. Although act one relies on strong acting to embody the idea of disregard for the child, there are some characters who show desire to care for the baby. As the first act morphs into the second, the actors realize the value of the brown paper bag, and travel to Africa to begin frantically searching for the suddenly valuable child.
Act 2 provides a very different tone, contrasting the mood established in the first act. The performers travel to Africa to retrieve the baby which was mistakenly sent there from Sweden. The entire act takes place in the hotel lobby where all the actors converge, each with a different baby! The play then concludes with a humorous and somewhat bizarre ending.
Overall, the play was well acted, though at times it was hard to follow the storyline. The lighting transformed the aura of the stage, enabling the moods and emotions throughout the performance to feel almost real.
The most recent play performed on UMD’s campus was a rather risqué Swedish play called White Baby. In addition to the creative use of satiric and mature dialogue, the artistic perspective was just as demanding for attention.
Upon walking into the theater, the audience was greeted by grey scenery, complete with grey painted doors and a grey backdrop. With 11 different scene changes, it was questionable whether the scenic design would do the play any justice. As the performance unfolded, however, it was obvious that there was more to the design than met the eye. One example of this was the scenic designer’s imaginative use of doors throughout entire play. The first scene took place in a hotel room. Eva appeared to be sitting on a table. After closer observation, one might have seen a doorknob on its surface. This table—was in fact—a door. In addition, a door turned on its side during Scene 4 resembled a bar, while a hinged door folded in thirds created a table for the bartender.
Not only were the doors used as props, but they were also used as dividers. By placing multiple doors on stage throughout the duration of the play, it was easy for audience members to depict the separation of rooms. One specific example of this was during Scene 7 when the Postal Clerk told Lars to package his item in the back. Even though the audience wasn't exposed to two different scenes, the rooms were implied by Lars’ entrance and exit through the door.
Another technique used to create separation was the lighting design. There weren’t many colors used during the performance, but there was one exception. Whenever Marie was talking to herself and stroking her hair, she was lit by a magenta wash. Since some of these moments were mid-scene, it helped separate reality from what Marie was thinking.
A different example of beneficial lighting design was used in Act II for the Hotel Lobby. There was a use of down lighting during this scene, which further defined the areas of the stage where chairs were placed. Whenever the actors moved around, they almost always returned to the areas that included stronger lighting.
A performance can include detailed scenery and useful lighting, but if the costume design isn’t that of similar quality, the play’s overall artistic value might be jeopardized. This was not the case for White Baby; Lars, Eva, and Marie’s costumes exemplified how each costume design was carefully executed to mirror his or her personality.
When Lars was first introduced to the audience, his poor posture was exaggerated, his clothes were loose fitting, and his greasy hair covered his eyes. As the play progressed, it became obvious that Lars was one of the less knowledgeable characters. The state of his clothes and personal hygiene were a direct reflection of his disheveled and naive personality.
Eva was on the complete other end of the spectrum. Considering her political status in the community, she was dressed in a suit coat, pencil skirt, and tight bun. This symbolized her somewhat controlling and firm personality.
Lastly, Marie was the by far the most high-maintenance character in the play. To illustrate this trait, she almost always wore high heels, dress or skirt, and girly accessories.
Overall, this play used extensive design to create a visually pleasing experience that could be enjoyed by all participants.
In observance of the 25th anniversary working with their sister theatre in Växjö, Sweden, UMD put on their own twist of Sofia Freden's play White Baby, translated from its original Swedish dialect. The play was directed by Duluth's Renegade Theatre executive director and UMD alumni Andy Bennett. Bennett had a difficult job in choosing a cast for this very interesting and unique play, but he did a very good job in casting the actors for these difficult roles.
Each character played their part very well and really took to the role that they were cast in. Kate Zehr was cast as Eva, the typical politician who the public knew almost nothing about, but seems to have an answer to everything and every question brought to them by the media and are great at helping other people, but have a hard time helping themselves. Zehr delivered just that, a performance so believable, you would believe you were watching CSPAN or another political channel. Joshua Stenvick really played and looked his part of Hans very well, being the poor "sap" stuck with a "surprise" he really didn't want from his ex-wife, a moment every man never wants to have happen. Caity Shea Violette played Marie, who really added humor to the show with her "ditzy" style and humor that alluded her to being like a young child living in the adult world. Amanda Sjodahl(Esmerelda), Maria Depesa (Vivi), and Daniel Novick(Lars) played vital roles in supporting the characters of Eva and Hans and added even more twists and turns in the plotline, which was somewhat difficult to follow at times, but easy to understand once into the play. Chelsea Lin Reller, Lauren Schulke, and Katie Workman all played vital roles in the climatic parts of the play, and gave the play the "deep moments" it had, and gave the play a surprising twist at the end. All the characters melded together and gave the audience the illusion of a very dysfunctional family, one formed from a common purpose that would normally tear people apart.
Bennett did a wonderful job in selecting the cast for this play. The play, transcribed from its original Swedish dialect was challenge enough for the director and cast alike, but both stepped up to the occasion and gave an excellent performance. Understanding the language gap and the different idioms and dialects from Swedish to English makes everyone involved have to think even more intently about how to perform in a way that both follows Sofia's original idea and a way that an American audience can enjoy and understand the concept behind. Everyone involved in this production did well in making the performance a truly wonderful play to watch. UMD's Dudley Theatre was the perfect place to showcase this play, allowing the cast and crew to ease the audience into what this play is truly meant to be. The play offered an experience not traditionally found in theatre, but an experience that is memorable and definitely worth seeing.
Review by Jon Fundine
When we talk about a play, “strange” is not a word that is usually brought up. But in this instance it is appropriate. Whit Baby, a play from Sweden that was written by Swedish playwright Sofia Freden, translated to English by Edward Buffalo Bromberg and directed by Andy Bennett. Touching on the subject of dysfunctional families, the play is filled with satire. It is a play that should not be viewed by younger members of the family because of it's language and sexual content.
A brown paper bag representing an unwanted infant by it's mother Eva (Kate Zehr) begins an odd journey from Sweden ending in Africa. The father, was it Lars (Daniel Novick) or Hans (Joshua Stenvick), we will never know has no desire to take responsibility for the child either.
After Hans and Eva split up, Hans finds himself a new girlfriend, Marie (Caity Shea Violette). Their relationship is anything but normal. Marie, the infantile young woman, who would go into long monologues while pulling on her pigtail, decides to leave Hans because of a package that Eva insists that Hans must have. Hans attempts to get rid of the package any way he can. Trying to leave it at a bar, but not able to as the bartender keeps reminding him that he left it there. The white baby changes hands numerous times until finally it is brought to the post office and shipped to Africa. Now, all of a sudden everyone wants the baby and decide to go to Africa to retrieve the infant. As the scene changes to Africa the hunt continues for the lost child. Finally, in a touching moment the white baby, now 10 years old is reunited with Eva in a heart warming moment.
The set design by Jenna Houck was extremely simple with only a few doors painted white, adding to the mystical feeling of the play. This simple design made scene changes quick and entertaining with one actor performing Michael Jackson's moon walk as they left the stage. The lighting design by Becca Charpentier was flawless with only one instance where a shadow was cast on Eva's face witch was quickly fixed by the actor stepping slightly to her right.
The cast did an exceptional job. Kate Zehr, who portrayed Eva, was hilarious when she would go into her monologues about politics with all the hand gestures to go along with it. Joshua Stenvick as Hans, and Daniel Novick as Lars performed without flaw. Caity Shea Violette as Marie was just hilarious. The entire cast were exceptional in the face of a difficult play to perform due to translating from Swedish to English. Each character at the beginning of the play would have been an unfit parent for the “wee one”, but they all seemed to grow and mature as time went on and gave hope that the White Baby would be taken care of.
Not a play that the whole family would enjoy or should see. But an incredible collaboration by all on a controversial subject. Directed very well, performed very well, designed very well. All brought together for a very entertaining evening.
The play White Baby was a very strange play that was Swedish. In addition to the creative use of satire and mature dialogue, the artistic perspective was just as demanding for attention. The play was centered on six people, who became intertwined in a plot to get rid of an unwanted baby, and finally find themselves in a mad rush to find it again.
The actors casted for the play were just right. They played the characters with such ferocity and heart. Marie, played by Caity Shea Violette, was my favorite actress. She played her part so well. The way she would throw herself into the character was very good. The rest of the actors were very good as well. The lighting and sound crew did a great job as well; they did a very good job at the end where they spotlighted the single chairs at the end to show each character.
This play was definitely not for everyone. To do this play was the real challenge. The actors had to go past the point of no return and beyond to get to know the characters, and they did an amazing job of it. In the beginning it was a little awkward but by the end it was a very good story and very well acted.
A new play has opened at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The fine arts department offers many opportunities not just for students to get involved but for the rest of the curious minds wanting to experience live theater. White Baby opened last week at the Dudley Experimental Theatre at the University. The opening night was a perfect night to view the production directed by Andy Bennett in the small theatre. White Baby was written by Swedish playwright Sofia Freden. In White Baby, the play crossed many taboos for some people, the actors were open and had such an independence when breaking the norms of behavior and language. White Baby had elements of comedy, obstacles of love, and raunchy humor that together created a powerful, brilliant performance.
The major conflict of White Baby was the baby. Portrayed by a plastic bag, no one seems to want anything to do with it in the first act. What unifies everything together is what to do with the baby. The tone of the play was light and very humorous; the characters were carefree and funny without being represented too much by stereotypes. All the characters had a personality of their own and were very convincing. The character’s lighthearted attitudes toward the baby is what kept the play amusing. During the second act, the tone changed and turned a bit serious as the characters all wanted to find the baby.
The playwright’s intention of creating humor of a baby not being wanted was most likely achieved by breaking the norm and adding risqué topics. Not many people would be fond knowing a baby was being thrown around in a paper bag. It was very well worth the attempt; the play was hilarious without a doubt and expressed things others think but don’t say. In comedies, all topics are fair game. Anyone watching White Baby or any comedy should have a comical set of mind and be open minded.
The actors were very believable, it was surprising. For a play that calls for a small cast, it is ideal for White Baby. The characters were well cast. Amanda Sjodahl and Maria Depesa handled the roles well. Their roles as a couple was very believable and make a potential delicate topic a matter of indifference. Many of the other roles showcased the great talent the actors have. They had to perform on stage something new and jeopardous to the audience. The actors fit the parts of the characters very well.
Ultimately, a play accomplishes to be successful because of intensity of the story not its stage dressing. White Baby was an impressing performance. The director got the actors right, and the light designing was fantastic. White Baby accomplished what it wanted because it communicated to audiences something new and improper to the norm, leaving audiences with a new perspective of humor and the taboos people hold.
UMD’s production of White Baby, directed by Andy Bennett, was definitely strange. The play is about exactly what the title portrays: a white baby. This play was originally written in Swedish, which we got a little taste of at the beginning of the show when they welcomed us to the production (which they followed with a translation to English).
This play starts out with Eva(Kate Zehr), a very well-respected political figured, making a baby with Lars(Daniel Novick), the homeless, jobless, loser. Their back story quickly reveals that the two are also connected to the other “couple” Hans(Joshua Stenvick) and Marie(Caity Shae Violette).
The storyline develops with Eva calling her past lover Hans to come and pick up his “stuff” he has left at her home. Little does Hans(and the audience) know, this so-called “stuff” is actually a baby. There is no doubt this “wee-one” causes quite the problems with the already unstable relationship of Hans and Marie. Marie is a whole bunch of crazy, from her super fast monologues to her psychotic rants about Hans, one can conclude she is very unstable. The character of Marie added a much needed comedic element in what would be a pretty intense topic. Caity Shae Violette was an outstanding actress to watch on stage!
Act 1 had multiple scene changes, which I thought the stage was VERY well equipped to accommodate. In one scene a door would be used as a table, in another a bench, and so on and so forth. The stage crew did a phenomenal job setting up and breaking down scene changes in record time!
This play had some uncomfortable elements. The biggest being that the white baby, is actually carried around in a paper sack, which the actors/actresses even throw, sat on, and dropped several time throughout the show.
This play was not a family friendly show. The production had some very vulgar speech and a lot of very mature scenes, not recommended for anyone under 17. Overall this play was a very unique experience. Some members of the audience seemed to enjoy the production much more than others. It was a very daring and one-of-a-kind play to say the least. UMD really pushed their boundaries with this production.
Play seen on October 31st
White baby is an interesting performance that takes place in the U.S. during act one and in Africa during act two. During the performance the white baby is in a brown paper bag. The paper bag is thrown, kicked, spilled on, and sat on.
White baby is a comment on the way the U.S. views objects in general. We want them until we have them, when we lose them we want them more and perhaps buy more than we actually need. Then we panic and try to get rid of the extra one that we do not need.
The performance starts with the act of conceiving a baby. Then it continues to the birth of the baby. After having the baby the mother does whatever she can to loose the baby. Then she tries to give the baby to the father. Then after losing the baby she wants it back. This is the same pattern we find ourselves in when we fall in love with a new item. We get one and then something goes wrong and we no longer want it. Then we want more and more of them and end up with too many.
The play opens with people just walking past a brown paper bag on the floor. None of the people are paying any attention to the bag on the ground, when suddenly one of the young lady’s on stage picks up the bag and discovers that there is a baby inside.
Throughout the play the group goes throough periods aof wanting and then later not wanting the brown paper bag. Until the group find themselves in Africa to get a baby for each of themselves and then they all come back to the U.S.
The way the dialog works in during the show is truely a work of art the characters are so different simply by the way they speak it is an amzing thing.
November 1, 2012
A UMD production of the Swedish play White Baby was recently performed on October 31 at the Dudley Theatre. There aren’t better words to describe this production than peculiar, explicit, and edgy.
White Baby is a very explicit play that shows the hatred of an unwanted baby by six people and how they despise the idea of having the responsibility of this baby.
The cast of White Baby really captured the social perspective of the underlying meaning of the play. The casts took on an edgy, odd, and hysterical production. This production did this with lots of laughs.
From a social perspective, White Baby provided an insight on the social issues faced today with the value of life. The playwright had intended to tell a story that relates to the society today and did a mirror reflection of how it is perceived.
Introduced in a very explicit way were characters Eva and Hans. Along with introducing the main character to life, the baby, the beginning scene also introduced how explicit the play was.
Eva, played by Kate Zehr, is a government official, who is very quirky with all her gestures and movements. Eva is introduced as the mother of the baby. Zehr shows the importance Eva’s job has which makes her baby a huge weight in her career.
Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick, is the father of the baby who is portrayed and a goofy drunk, who doesn’t seem to care for life that finds a desire for the baby as the play goes on.
The baby that everyone tosses around is represented in a paper bag creating the idea that no one wants it and everyone is treating it like it has no value and not even referring it to a human but rather a thing.
Caity Shea Violette plays Marie, the girlfriend on Lars, and is almost as if she is a baby herself in the way she acts and dresses. She does an excellent job at creating a overly dramatic, doll-like, obsessed lover role who captured many laughs in her over the top questioning of Lars’ love for her.
The production captures the darkness of the story by the use of lights and shadows and the dark grey consumes.
If planning on attending White Baby, it is important to be prepared knowing it was going to be an odd production. Overall, the quirky and weirdness of the production played a huge contribution to show the overall message that the characters wanted to tell. That every life has value and meaning. This production did well on creating a very odd and explicit story, which needs preparation going in to.
White Baby was recently performed by UMD, and directed by Andy Bennett. It centers around a baby that no one seems to want. The most predominate factor in this play was the fact that it is not a traditional North American play. It was originally made in Sweden, and written originally in Swedish. The biggest challenge was for the directors and cast to recreate this Swedish play with little to no idea what the play writer actually wanted. When watching the play it was obvious that the crowd was a little unsure about some things but they also really enjoyed a lot of other things. By choosing such an uncommon play the director was really taking a risk that by far paid off. This play was an absolute hit.
White baby was a very strange play. The plot was very hard to follow at times. The problem with the plot is a lack of spine. There is not one true story line that the audience can follow. Instead each of the characters had their own story that at times meshed together and complicate the play. Another issue with this play is it was un-relatable to current issues. This could very well be from misunderstandings in the translation or other misunderstandings but there was some clarifications needed. The one scene in which the audience was most taken back was when Lars decided to go to Africa and a small lion appeared out of what seemed like him.
The lighting, costumes, and scenery were excellent. They did an excellent job of complementing the writing of the play. Also the stage was very unique in that most of the props converted from one thing to another. For example a lot of the tables are folded doors. The crew also did a very swift job of changing the scenes fast causing minimal distraction between scenes. The costumes where not over eccentric, which helped the play cause it allowed the actors to really be the focus. The characters personalities showed through very well. Each actor did a good job portraying the certain craziness of the character that they were, as each character was different from the next.
White baby was a very controversial play and has some scenes that are inappropriate for those under 17. It definitely lived up to its reputation of being rated R, due to the sexual content and some of the explicit language used throughout the play. Everyone should take the time to go and see it, if for nothing but the experience. It is such a bizarre play that it really shows you the different styles of nontraditional plays.
The production of UMD’s theatre performance of White Baby was a very different and interesting play. Sofia Freden who was a Swedish playwright originally wrote White Baby. Andy Bennett took on the challenge of taking this translated play and making it relatable to the audience that would be viewing it in the Duluth area. The reason that the play is so much different than most shown in this area is because of the language used and the sexual references throughout the story line. Also, the plot was very different than most because at first everyone is trying to get rid of an unwanted baby leading everyone to Africa. While in Africa everyone starts searching for the “white” baby amongst all the children in the country. In the end the paper bags of all the babies found were “black.” The acting, costumes, and design element of the play was very well thought out and made the production interesting and exciting to watch.
There were six main characters that the audience followed, along with the “wee one,” which was the baby that they carry around in a paper bag. Eva, who was played by Kate Zehr, did a great job of keeping a very stern and harsh attitude about her. Although the child was hers, she seemed to care the least about it for the majority of the first half of the play. Lars, who was played by Daniel Novick, was humorous and was basically the joke of all of the characters. Hans, who was played by Joshua Stenvick, did a wonderful job of portraying his character of an unsuspecting father of an ex-girlfriend and having to deal with a very needy girlfriend, Marie who was played by Cati Shea Violette. Violette did a fabulous job of being the stereotypical jealous and clingy girlfriend.
The costume design of these characters helped the audience get a feel for what the character was going to be like before they even started performing. Eva wore a woman’s suit, which immediately indicated that she was involved with some sort of politics; it also made her seem uptight which in many ways was correct. Lars wore very baggy clothes and his hair was a complete mess, it was easy to tell that he was a bum or had very little interest in his personal appearance. Hans was dressed in oversized clothes and his hair was never done indicating that he was in no shape to be a father.
The play was held in the Dudley Experimental Theatre, which is a smaller stage in UMD located behind the much larger UMD theatre. The different design elements of White Baby were well done. The stage was very simple; it was all white with a few doors and a table that was also transformed into a door for some scenes. After hearing about the different lighting techniques that are used from the presentation in class, it was interesting to see how they were used in this production. The lights turned blue when the actor was feeling down about having the baby, and when the actors were having a warm and happy scene the lights turned an amber color.
The ending of the play was not expected from watching the first half; it was surprising to see everyone fighting to find the baby that they had previously all tried to pawn off on each other and eventually mailed to Africa in the first half of the play. Bennett did a wonderful job of casting actors for this production as well as making the story so interesting to watch from the audiences prospective.
The UMD production of White Baby was different then anything that I have seen before. The play is originally a Swedish production written by Sofia Freden, but luckily for us, it was translated back into English. This play was chosen in honor of Duluth and Vaxjo, Sweden’s international relationship for the anniversary. Andy Bennett got the honor in directing this play. He also translated it a little bit further, because some of the jokes on the original script would not have made sense to the audience because the jokes pertained to Sweden only. Andy did a wonderful job taking this play and giving it a fresh Americanized feel to it.
There were 6 main actors in the play, all of whom were cast very well. Well I supposed you could kind of say there were seven if you counted that “baby” (aka paper bag). Eva, who was played by Kate Zehr, was a very professional businesswoman. This was one of the more funnier if not funniest characters. This actor did a great job playing her role. Her speech was hilarious, and she would go on these tyrants that seemed to last forever. Kate did a great job not cracking up during the play. Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick, was the oldest actor of the bunch. He had a very calming voice, and was definitely the mediator in the play (though he had some pretty funny lines as well). He was the ex-husband of Eva and the boyfriend of Marie. Marie, played by Caity Shae Violette, was crazy girlfriend of Lars. She was very funny, but I can’t help but say she was also very annoying. I believe that this was what the playwright was trying to accomplish when they wrote this play though. She was extremely immature, but at the same time very sexually demanding of Hans. Marie also had a very evil side to her (which was incredibly funny). Marie was definitely one of the more complex characters of the bunch. And then we come to Lars (played by Daniel Novick). Lars was definitely one of the dumbest characters that have ever been in a play. He has this speech that is just so funny, he reminded me of a very Jim Carrey style of acting but probably a bit more stupid. Lars was one hilarious. And then we come to Esmerelda and Vivi. They were both lesbian lovers, and Vivi was the daughter of Eva.
To explain how different this play is, let me go through and explain the first scene of it. The opening scene starts off with Eva being alone onstage. Then Lars enters, who appears intoxicated, he slurs a pick up line and they proceed to have sex on a table. It last for about 30 seconds, until the he finishes, in which he replies, “thanks.” He then walks off the stage and that is the end of the first scene. One of the strangest opening scenes I have ever laid my eyes on, but also one of the most hilarious. This scene is supposed to be the scene where the baby is conceived, but Hans mistakes it for his own child and that’s what the play kind of followed. No one wants the baby (which is in a brown paper bag), until they suddenly realize that they all want it. And that’s really what the spine of the play is.
Though this play was funny, some of the scenes seemed to be out of place. I’m not sure if there was a problem with the translation or what, but some of the scenes were kind of awkward and there seemed to be a joke that we missed. One of these scenes was when Lars had what appeared to give birth to a baby? It also could have been a lion of some sort, but either way it would not have made any sense. Each character had their own sub-plot, and it was pretty cool when it all came together.
I really liked when the lights turned red and focused on Marie and you just knew she was having this mad/crazy thoughts. The stage itself was very simple, a few tables, some chairs, and 3 or 4 doors that were all in white. The clothing definitely represented each character well.
Overall, I think what the director/playwright intended was spot on. It was a hilarious comedy, and it’s definitely aimed at a younger audience. The jokes and the vulgarity are definitely up a young person’s alley. Though the director should take a hard look at some of the more awkward scenes in the play (or talk to a translator about what the Swedish version was trying to achieve), the play was definitely worth it. I didn’t have much expectations and I was not disappointed. Such a great production!
Of all of the plays that we have had the opportunity to go see this year, the University of Minnesota Duluth’s production of White Baby was the one that really started off with a bang. Sofia Freden was the original writer of the play, however Andy Bennet was the man responsible for taking this translated work and making it relatable for the audience. Some may have seen this performance as controversial, regarding the treatment of the baby. But it was easy to overlook as the baby was represented in the play more so as an item than a human being.
There were about eight to ten characters if you include the several extra babies in the last act when they were in Africa. But of those, there were six main characters. The funniest character by far was Lars who was played by David Novick. It seemed that he could have possibly stepped in to the shoes of Matthew McConaughey and played the role of David Wooderson if there was a Swedish version of Dazed and Confused. He was very eccentric and usually appeared to not have a full grasp of the conversations being had by the characters. His happy go lucky attitude was fun to watch. The mother of the white baby was Eva, played by Kate Zehr. She did a remarkable job portraying a politician by maintaining a stern and sometimes heartless attitude towards the baby and other characters. You could draw a comparison to Eva as a cross between Angelina Jolie and Sarah Palin. Affectionate love for wanting to recover a child from Africa while trying to keep it from the media while balancing her political career. One of the characters that Eva was least affectionate to was Hans, played by Joshua Stenvick. Ironically, Hans may have been the most affectionate out of all the characters. He was the one that was most delicate with the brown paper bag, never dropping it or throwing it around like the rest of the cast. He did a magnificent job in portraying a very caring, loving father, even when disregarded by the mother of his (potential) child. Enter Marie, played by Caiti Shea Violette. Over the top crazy, needy, girlfriend. Incredible job of making this character extremely believable, not just with her mannerisms, but with her regard towards her boyfriend’s potential child.
The Dudley Stage may have been the perfect venue for this play. It was very dark so all of the focus in the theater was on the stage. Another thing that really enhanced the performance was the proximity of the audience to the stage. For those sitting in the front row, they had an amazing chance to really see what was going on on the stage and engage the actors. It was cool to see the lighting effects that we talked about in class being used such as being able to assume what time of day and year it was.
Talk about an unexpected ending. I can’t see someone from Africa being happy with the way that this play ended. Sofia Freden made it seem like there are just babies laying around in Africa that could be picked up or purchased as easily as an iPod. All in all, this was a very entertaining play and it would be a good decision to go see it again if the opportunity ever presents itself.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on November 1, 2012 12:34 PM.
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