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A CurtainUp Review
The first story centers on a young woman named Claudia (Ana Noguiera) who's expecting her first baby and planning on a natural home birth; the second focuses on a chorus of mothers who share their gestation experiences via a pregnancy message board; the third involves a girl named Mary (Lucy DeVito), living in colonial New England, and giving birth to her first baby.
Science is incorporated into the play in a novel manner. Claudia's father Luis (Gilbert Cruz), an auto mechanic, invents a device that has the potential to extract a baby in distress from the uterus. Inspired by a YouTube video in which a cork is extracted from an empty wine bottle without breaking it, Luis invents a similar device that might help a mother during a delivery, in which her baby is stuck in the birth canal.
Curiously, Luis' invention is more than a flight of fancy. It is based on the real-life Odon Device which Jorge Odon, an Argentinian garage mechanic invented in 2005 inspired by —you guessed it — a YouTube video illustrating how to get a cork out of an empty wine bottle. What's more, Odon's invention has been presented to pundits at the World Health Organization. And though more testing needs to be done on the device before being approved by the medical profession, it is considered feasible for assisting at difficult births in the delivery room.
To return to the play, the entire cast has good chemistry that seems to to be the product of genuine stage bonding. Perhaps performing in a play that revolves around childbirth engenders its own gestalt. At any rate, there's a genuine warmth emanating from these actors.
The creative team shows good management of their theatrical resources. Kristen Robinson's set design, though modest, has some innovative touches. Its most notable feature is a cut-out design in one of the living room walls on stage that enables you to see and hear the chorus of mothers as they post their news on the pregnancy message board. At other moments, it allows you to listen to the YouTube Guy (Jonathan Randell Silver) giving his spiel.
There's plenty of humor bubbling up in Bump. One of the funnier moments occurs when the young colonial girl Mary temporarily "loses it" during labor and screams out that she hates the baby, her husband, and even the Midwife (Jenny O'Hara) who's assisting at the birth. The Midwife, of course, remains cool as she listens to Mary's rantings. But when Mary finishes her hate litany, the Midwife matter-of-factly adds: "In my experience, mothers and babies tend to get along better once the baby is out."
Not all ends happily-ever-after, though. One woman who contributes to the message board learns during a routine visit to her doctor that her baby's heart beat can no longer be detected. Her last post on the message board sadly shares this news and that she is already scheduled to have a D & C operation.
What makes this play hum is its realism, as well as the infectious humor and vibrant characters. My main reservation pertains to the women's code names for the message board. Plum, Apple, Grapefruit, Walnut, Lemon, and Avocado suggest the ingredients for a fruit salad, not monikers for three-dimensional human beings. Obviously, the playwright is trying to drive home the idea of fertility and plenty. But it does come off as rather gimmicky.
Bump> will hit home with women who are or have been expectant mothers, as well as science buffs who would like to learn the quirky story behind the Odon Device. Who knows. It may one of these days be part of the standard equipment in any delivery room.
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Bump by Chiara Atik
Directed by Claudia Weill
Cast: Gilbert Cruz (Luis), Adriana Sananes (Maria), Ana Nogueira (Claudia), Lucy DeVito (Mary), Jenny O’Hara (Midwife), Kelly Anne Burns (Apple), Kelli Lynn Harrison (Grapefruit), Erica Lutz (Lemon), Kristen Adele (Turnip), Laura Ramadei (Avocado), Susan Hyon (Walnut), and Jonathan Randell Silver (YouTube Guy).
Sets: Kristen Robinson
Lighting: Gina Scherr
Costumes: Suzanne Chesney
Sound design: M.L. Dogg
Stage Manager: Eileen Lalley
Ensemble Studio Theatre (at the Curt Dempster Theatre), 549 West 52nd Street. Tickets: $30 to $40. Visit online www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org
From 5/09/18; opening 5/17/18; closing 6/03/18.
Wednesday through Saturday @ 7pm; Saturday matinee @ 2pm; Sunday @ 5pm; Please note: On Sunday June 3rd, there only will be a performance @ 7pm.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 5/13/18
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