Down comes the cradle
The Ooley Theatre2007 28th St.
Sacramento, CA 95818
Shattered expectations and the struggle to determine what constitutes a “quality” life are at the heart of this dark—very dark—tragicomedy from Rachel Axler. A writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Parks and Recreation, Axler moves to the stage with Smudge, which makes its regional premiere as part of KOLT Run Creations’ first full season.
Don’t mistake this for a traditional or sketch comedy. There are laughs, yes, but Axler’s story ensures that they’ll be the twitchy, nervous laughter that covers a barely suppressed cry of anguish.
Colby (Kelley Ogden, proving once again that she has the most expressive face in town) and Nick (Barry Hubbard) are anticipating the birth of their first child—but the sonogram shows … what? Is it just a bad image, or is their child really a smudge?
What are these perfectly nice people to do when the baby they thought they’d bring home is tethered to tubes and bears less resemblance to the smiling infants on formula and diaper packages than to a stuffed toy? As their struggles, variously comic and heartbreaking, to cope with their new arrival unfold, we also meet Nick’s high-octane brother, Pete (Eric Baldwin), who has his own agenda in Nick’s life.
A wonderful set design by Nastassya Ferns that includes a crib that seems nothing short of magical, complete with flashing lights and colors (courtesy of light design and special effects by Owen Smith), remains flexible and holds up well with rapid scene changes.
But, ultimately, the power of the script is in the hands of the actors. What these three talented actors—under the direction of Lisa Thew—bring forward is a roughly comic (of the laugh so you don’t cry variety) examination of family, the meaning of life, surviving dashed hopes, and self-delusion. In Ogden and Hubbard, we also see a fantastic portrayal of the mixed emotions more new parents experience than will admit to: a moment when immense and overwhelming love mingles torturously with the desire to destroy that thing which has now completely taken over one’s life.
This is honest, thoughtful and—yes—funny work. If it’s not disturbing as well, then you’re not paying attention.