REBORNING at the SF PLAYHOUSE
Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Isn’t that an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms?
Assuming he made the selection, sensitive male SF Playhouse Artistic Director Bill English has picked what could easily be termed a cushion right off the psychotherapist’s couch.
REBORNING by Zayd Dohrn makes clever use of comedy to render the audience vulnerable to the message of this heart-warming and thought provoking play about the relentless pain of loss and the protracted process of healing.
Director Josh Costello has fashioned some multifaceted characters to live up to the complexities of the script: Daizy, superbly played by Alexander Alioto, being his best example.
Alexander’s Daizy is a lightweight artist inhabiting the far reaches of three dimensional creativity and sculpture: he designs very convincing, life-like phalluses.
Using high tech procedures and exotic polymers, his finished product looks exactly like the real thing only bigger than what most of us can rightfully lay claim to.
His significant other Kelly: the walking-wounded, played by Lauren English, uses Daizy’s technology to create the next step in the procreative process: babies.
These babies are not merely cutesy dolls that are plumbed to wet themselves as their garage door eye lids slam shut; these are life-like dolls which are so convincing that adults put them in strollers to garner oohs and ahs from passing adoring strangers and to gain a seat on the subway.
Enter Emily, played by award winning actress Lorri Holt.
Emily has lost her child and each waking hour is laced with bone-grinding pain and seemingly interminable grieving.
Desperately betting against rationality, Emily puts her faith in a totem, a polymer facsimile of her deceased daughter to palliate her grief.
As Kelly is putting the finishing touches on the surrogate polymer baby, up pops folie à deux as the French would say.
Kelly and Emily get into a tug of war over baby (see I Kings 3:16-28 for a similar case): abandonment issues are pitted again the grief of infant mortality.
One psycho-philosophical fiber seems to wend itself through the play: where does a fetish end and where does the domain of talisman and totem begin?
If you have ever wondered, from a distance, how people get through shattering kinds of losses or if you “suffer a lack of empathy for the paths people take towards healing,” this play could untie these Gordian riddles for you and ratchet up your compassion index.
Zayd Dohrn, Josh Costello and Bill English prove that serious theatre is far from tedious theater: REBORNING is enthralling and riveting.
For tickets call the box office at 415-677-9596 or go to www.sfplayhouse.org but hurry, the run ends soon.